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Study Finds Doctors Got Marketing Kickbacks From Stimulant Manufacturers

The connection between doctors and pharmaceutical companies has long been one that has been under scrutiny, and rightfully so. The only motivation a physician should have when prescribing a drug or device is the best interest of their patient. However, when doctors receive kickbacks in the form of board positions, comped services, or other incentives, the ability to remain impartial is called into question.

Such kickbacks are not as rare as one might think. Last fall, we reported on local doctors who also held high-ranking positions with pharmaceutical and medical device companies. Last month, we reported on a settlement agreement involving a fraud case in which Texas doctors colluded with a Massachusetts laboratory to refer patients in exchange for comped fees and other services.

Now the results of a new study are calling into question the relationship between physicians and the makers of stimulant medications. Analysis of Pharmaceutical Industry Marketing of Stimulants, 2014 Through 2018published in JAMA Pediatrics, examines the relationship between pharmaceutical marketing and the rate at which stimulant medications were prescribed. The study found that the rate of prescribing stimulants increased at the same time the rate at which physicians received incentives from pharmaceutical companies manufacturing the drugs. 

Prescription stimulant use has risen dramatically. From the time period of 2006 to 2016, the use of prescription stimulants doubled. JAMA Pediatrics researchers found that during the time period 2014 to 2018, incentives to physicians also increased. These incentives were typically high-frequency, low-dollar payments in the form of food or beverages. According to researchers, approximately one out of every 18 doctors received some form of pharmaceutical marketing about stimulants, most often in the form of food or beverages.

Many restrictions have been placed on pharmaceutical marketing. In previous years, pharmaceutical reps could take doctors out for lavish meals or games of golf while “educating” them about medications and devices. Now, offsite meetings not deemed educational in nature are prohibited and the value of acceptable gifts must be to $100 or less (these often come in the form of a lunch for a doctor and their staff). Furthermore, under the Affordable Care Act, all gifts and connections to the pharmaceutical industry on the part of a physician are recorded in a public database. 

Studies consistently find that gifts from pharmaceutical companies do have an effect on the rates of prescribing, which makes the findings of stimulants troubling. Stimulant medications can be abused, and over the years that prescription rates increased, so did rates of abuse—specifically among young adults. Additionally, studies have found that adolescents and adults who start stimulant treatment for ADHD are found to engage in more polydrug abuse and non-medical use of stimulants than those without ADHD.

Medical Malpractice and Prescription Errors

Prescription errors can include prescribing a patient the wrong medication, too much of the correct medication, a medication that may interact with another medication, and more. These errors, whether they are motivated by pharmaceutical company incentives or simply the result of a mistake such as a communication error, can have devastating consequences for victims. If you think you may have been the victim of a prescription error, contact our team so that we can use our extensive resources to fight to get you the compensation necessary to restore your health.

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian
Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm’s litigation practice.  Briggs’ legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 


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