Research has shown that behind the epidemic of opiate use in the United States there is a factor that has played a key role: the marketing that some laboratories promote these drugs. For two years, they spent about $ 39.7 million.
The past few years have not been easy for US health authorities. As some media began to reveal the alarming numbers of addiction to some opiates, the alarms were triggered. As one of the most powerful analgesics to treat pain, these drugs are added to the list of major addictions. Figure summarizes the problem: More than 42,000 people died in 2016 because of excessive consumption. (Read Opioid Drugs: there is inequality in Colombia even for the treatment of pain)
The reasons why the intake of these substances suddenly leapt is multiple. In the difficult equation that needs to be analyzed to understand this epidemic, many factors come into force. One of them has just been evaluated in an article published in the JAMA Network Open: The gifts doctors often offer to some pharmaceutical houses. (Read: Colombia's Gray Zone of Drugs)
Carried out by a group of researchers at the Boston Medical Center and the University of New York University Medical School, this study shows that there may be a link between the materials that laboratories give to healthcare professionals and the overdose deaths of opioids.
The reason? In areas where doctors receive more travel, nutrition and counseling fees from opiate manufacturers, the number of deaths involving prescription opioids is higher. In some cases, 18%.
In other words, as they point out in their article, "the study adds to recent literature suggesting that the commercialization of specific products by a pharmaceutical company may be associated with an increased prescription for these drugs. Recent data suggests that when doctors receive opioid marketing, they later prescribe more opioids.
The authors point out that between August 1, 2013 and December 31, 2015, pharmaceutical companies have spent about US $ 39.7 million. for the marketing of these medicines. It was a promotion that reached almost 68,000 doctors in the 2208 American Counties. Many have received these gifts in the form of travel, food or as part of a payment for consultancy services. In fact, as The New York Times shows, between 1 and 12 doctors have been opiate marketers between these two years.
To reach these conclusions, the team, led by Dr. Scott E. Hadland of the Boston Medical Center, reviewed several databases. One is "Open Payments," where payments or gifts made by pharmaceutical companies to doctors are recorded. Another part contained data on drug overdoses from disease control and prevention centers. Pharmacies have more prescriptions for opiates.
However, as Hadland admits to The New York Times, the study has some limitations. "We realize that our work describes only a part of the very complex overdose of opioids, but prescription drugs still account for one third of all overdose deaths and are usually the first drugs people encounter before the transition to overdose. heroin or fentanyl It is important to take measures to prevent unnecessary exposure to new people who do not need opiates, "he said.
However, as I explained a few months ago in this newspaper, Liliana de Lima, director of the International Association of Hospice and Palliative Care, based in Houston (USA), this is a question to be done with tweezers. The reason? The reasons for most overdoses in the US are related to heroin, illicit origin, and fentanyl, a very potent substance used as an anesthetic, which begins to arrive in envelopes from China. Migration officials could not find it.
"This is a completely different reality than other countries," he said, explaining that while in North America the consumption of these substances increased sharply, elsewhere, like Colombia, many patients still have very limited access that prevents them to relieve pain.
In the case of the United States, Hadland and his team believe that we need to start analyzing the issue more carefully. His concern summarizes in a sentence: "At the height of the national crisis of opiate overdose, it may be justified to review the impact of the pharmaceutical industry."