Payments Lead to Physicians Prescribing Higher-Cost Branded Drugs

Approximately 47.1% of physicians accepted a payment from drug industry companies.

A recent study found that physicians who received payments or valuable items from drug, medical device, and biological agent manufacturers were more likely to prescribe higher cost branded drugs.

The US Physician Payments Sunshine Act requires that payments to physicians must be documented if they are more than $10, or exceed $100 annually. These payments could potentially present a conflict of interest for physicians.

In the study, published by PLOS One, researchers analyzed data from Medicare Part D data, including prescription claims submitted by Part D plan sponsors in 2013. Researchers also gathered data from the Open Payment Program (OPP), which is a part of the Sunshine Act, and includes data such as honoraria, consulting fees, and valuable items such as food and travel.

Research costs and equity stakes are not collected by this program, according to the study. To calculate a potential association between payment and prescribing practices, researchers used linear regression.

The researchers discovered that 47.1% of 725,169 physicians in the study had payments in OPP data. The mean payment was approximately $1750.

These data were subsequently compared with prescribing tendencies of physicians within each specialty. Researchers found that payment to physicians was more likely associated with a larger prescription cost per beneficiary.

This finding is said to be consistent in all specialty physicians studied, except general surgeons.

They also found that care-oriented specialties had the tendency to have more evenly distributed payments and other specialties such as neurology had payments that were concentrated among less physicians. Certain physicians had higher prescribing costs due to more expensive medications, but other specialties had higher costs because of branded prescriptions, according to the study.

The findings from this study suggest a strong link between payments from manufacturers and the prescribing tendencies for physicians. Further understanding of this relationship could lead to reduced costs, the researchers concluded.