Provider-directed marketing may increase prescribing of medications for opioid use disorder

J Subst Abuse Treat. 2019 Sep:104:104-115. doi: 10.1016/j.jsat.2019.06.014. Epub 2019 Jul 1.


Background: Opioid use disorder (OUD) has become an increasingly grave public health concern, especially in the United States where approximately 80% of the global opioid supply is consumed. Despite greater awareness of the present overdose crisis, potentially life-saving OUD pharmacotherapy (medications for opioid use disorder or MOUD) utilization remains low. This study examines the extent of provider-directed marketing (detailing) for MOUD drugs and identifies any associations between a provider's receipt of detailing and their prescribing of MOUD drugs to Medicare Part D beneficiaries.

Method: We combined Open Payments data on all provider-directed payments from pharmaceutical manufacturers with physician-level data on all MOUD prescriptions filled in Medicare Part D. We estimated the adjusted difference in Medicare days supply for all MOUD drugs (collectively) and separately for each MOUD drug that was associated with receipt of payments.

Results: The Open Payments data show that $7.0 million MOUD-specific promotional payments were made by pharmaceutical manufacturers to 12,056 US physicians from 2014 to 2016, which is <1/6th of the $50.3 million made in overall non-MOUD opioid-related promotional payments to 76,992 US physicians during that same period. Prescribers who received any MOUD-specific payments prescribed 1080 daily MOUD-related doses per year more than peers who did not receive any MOUD-specific payments (p < 0.001). The data also show the relatively greater association between receipt of detailing and Suboxone prescriptions compared to Vivitrol.

Conclusions: Provider-directed marketing by MOUD manufacturers has been found to be significantly and positively associated with incidence of MOUD prescribing in Medicare Part D, as well as with the quantity of MOUD prescribed.

Keywords: Drug prescriptions; Medicare Part D; Medication-assisted treatment; Opioid use disorder; Pharmaceutical payments; Provider-directed marketing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Advertising / economics
  • Advertising / statistics & numerical data*
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Industry / economics
  • Drug Industry / statistics & numerical data*
  • Drug Prescriptions / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Medicare Part D / statistics & numerical data*
  • Opiate Substitution Treatment / economics
  • Opiate Substitution Treatment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Physicians / economics
  • Physicians / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States


  • Analgesics, Opioid