Why News Releases Regarding Bribes to Providers to Prescribe Certain Medications is Concerning

On January 28, 2019, it was released that a founder and former employees of Insys are headed to trial for allegedly bribing Physicians to prescribe Fentanyl spray. This is one of many incidences where pharmaceutical companies resort to bribing physicians to prescribe their drug in order to boost sales. This practice is illegal and has cascading negative effects on physicians, patients, and the community.

Why is this Alarming?
1. Bribing providers with gifts or money is illegal. The personnel bribing providers can be criminally prosecuted for these practices. Importantly, providers may lose their licensure or be subjected to criminal prosecution. It is important that providers are aware what behavior is illegal.
2. Providers may be incentivized to prescribe medication when it is not medically necessary for patient’s treatment. This results in patients taking medication that is unnecessary and has negative side effects. This has been seen in instances where patients with fibromyalgia or cancer are given opioids, which allegedly causes more harm than relief.
3. Generally, this may lead to providers prescribing opioids and other painkillers more often. Patients can become addicted to these drugs (even when it was found that the medicine was not the best course of treatment). These types of practices contribute to the opioid crisis.
4. Providers may not be aware what incentives are legal or illegal. Even bribes disguised as speaking fees and other non-monetary payments can be deemed illegal bribery. Under the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, patients can find out what payments providers receive from drug companies and manufacturers.

Providers Should Consider:
1. How does your practice track payments from drug companies?
2. Do you have a policy about what gifts/payments can be accepted?
3. Does someone in your office track such payments?
4. Do drug representatives bring your office lunch or invite you to dinners?

There are many rules about meetings such as these. Your office needs to have a clear policy on what is acceptable. Further, are you asking your drug reps what they will be reporting? Your office should have all financial arrangement policies and conflict of interest statements up to date. Start now!

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