How Much Are Drug Companies Paying Midwest Doctors?

Jun 28, 2018

The manufacturer of a drug linked to Indiana's 2015 HIV outbreak spent more than $200,000 in 2016 promoting its opioid-based pain medication to doctors.

Endo Pharmaceuticals, a Pennsylvania-based drug company, makes Opana ER, which stands for extended release. These medications deliver opioids to a patient's system over time. Between 2014 and 2015, more than 200 new cases of HIV in Scott County, Indiana, were linked to injection drug users sharing needles to abuse Opana.

Endo spent about $121,000 on payments to doctors related to Opana in 2015 and $229,000 in 2016. That’s according to data gathered by ProPublica and NPR and published in their Dollars for Docs database, which encompasses payments to doctors from drug and medical device companies made between August 2013 to December 2016.

Pharmaceutical and medical device companies can pay doctors and teaching hospitals for promotional talks, research, meals, travel and consulting, among other categories. Companies are required to report the payments publicly under the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, as part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

Endo said it stopped promoting Opana ER in January 2017 and voluntarily withdrew the drug from the market in September of that year.

ProPublica and NPR’s reporting also finds three Indiana drug and medical device companies were among the 50 companies that paid doctors the most between August 2013 to December 2016.

Warsaw-based Zimmer Biomet Holdings, Inc. spent $309 million. A division of Zimmer Biomet Holdings, Biomet Orthopedics LLC, spent $39.2 million. Bloomington-based Cook Group Inc. Spent $69 million. And Indianapolis-based Lilly USA spent $52.1.

Three Illinois companies were also among the top 50 spenders. AbbVie Inc. spent $131 million and Abbott Laboratories spent $48.1 million. Both companies are headquartered in Chicago. And Takeda Pharmaceuticals U.S.A., Inc. of Deerfield spent $66.2 million.

In Ohio, Cincinnati-based Ethicon Endo-Surgery spent $34 million in payments to physicians. Cleveland Clinic Hospital was also the fifth highest-paid teaching hospital in the U.S., earning $49.2 million.

Between August 2013 to December 2016, a North Kansas City, Missouri, doctor was the second most-paid in the county by drug and medical device companies, according to ProPublica and NPR. Companies paid orthopedic surgeon Roger P. Jackson $62.3 million between August 2013 to December 2016, including $5,379,264 in 2016 and $38,392,184 in 2015.

Between August 2013 to December 2016, Ohio physicians were paid $322 million, the seventh highest in the nation. Illinois physicians followed with medical companies paying $283 million. Indiana physicians were received $113 million. And Missouri physicians were paid $209 million.

Overall, ProPublica and NPR found that pharmaceutical company payments to physicians related to opioid drugs decreased significantly in 2016 from the year before. In 2016, drug makers spent $15.8 million to pay doctors for speaking, consulting, meals and travel related to opioid drugs. That was down 33 percent from $23.7 million in 2015 and is 21 percent less than the $19.9 million in spent in 2014.

You can read the report and explore the database here.

This story was produced by Side Effects Public Media, a news collaborative covering public health.