Regarding the Jan. 20 Politics & the Nation article “Drug marketing linked to overdoses”:
A growing number of studies point to financial relationships between opioid drug manufacturers and physicians as a key factor in the rise of opioid prescribing and misuse. No study is without limitations, but all point in the same direction: Promotional activities lead to more opioid prescribing, even when involving small gifts such as lunch. Newer studies also begin to link this increased prescribing to opioid misuse.
Given the preponderance of evidence, the time to address the problem is now. Potential solutions include banning physician-targeted promotional activities entirely for opioids and other drugs with a high risk for misuse, or requiring physicians to opt in to such outreach. If physicians do have financial ties to pharmaceutical companies, they should be required to disclose those relationships so patients are aware of potential conflicts of interest.
Some health systems already ban their physicians from participating in such activities. But the evidence shows these piecemeal efforts, including Purdue Pharma’s self-imposed physician-marketing restrictions, are not sufficient. Additional steps are needed to reduce the adverse impacts from financial entanglements between pharmaceutical companies and physicians.
Mark Zezza, New York
The writer is director of policy and research for the New York State Health Foundation.