Prescribing Habits Influenced by Financial Gifts From Pharma

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Gifts were associated with a significantly increased average cost of claims in 6 specialties and with more branded claims in 3 specialties.
Gifts were associated with a significantly increased average cost of claims in 6 specialties and with more branded claims in 3 specialties.

HealthDay News — Receipt of gifts from pharmaceutical companies is associated with more prescriptions per patient and more costly prescriptions, according to a study published online in PLOS One.

Susan F. Wood, PhD, from George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health in Washington, DC, and colleagues examined the correlation between gifts provided by pharmaceutical companies to individual prescribers and prescribing behavior. Data relating to gifts were obtained from the District of Columbia's AccessRx program and the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services Open Payments program.

The researchers found that 39.1% of the 2873 Medicare Part D prescribers received gifts from pharmaceutical companies in 2013, totaling $3.9 million. Gift recipients prescribed 2.3 more claims per patient, medications costing $50 more per claim, and 7.8% more branded medications than non-gift recipients.

Gifts were associated with a significantly increased average cost of claims in 6 specialties and with more branded claims in 3 specialties. For physician assistants and nurse practitioners, gift acceptance correlated with an increased average cost per claim. Physicians who received small gifts (less than $500 annually) had more expensive claims and more branded claims than those who received no gifts; the highest average costs per claim and branded claims were seen for physicians receiving large gifts (greater than $500 annually).

"Industry gifts influence prescribing behavior, may have adverse public health implications, and should be banned," the authors write.

One author is a paid expert witness at the request of plaintiffs in litigation regarding pharmaceutical marketing practices, and several authors have ties to organizations that promote rational prescribing.

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Woods SF, Podrasky J, McMonagle MA, et al. Influence of pharmaceutical marketing on Medicare prescriptions in the District of Columbia [published online October 25, 2017]. PLOS One. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0186060

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