What We're Reading: Physician Burnout Continues; DEA Reports on Opioids; FDA Process Questioned

January 15, 2020

Physician burnout continues to be pervasive and differs by generation; more opioid doses flooded the market than originally believed; the FDA drug approval rate is speeding up.

Physician Burnout Differs Among Generations, Specialities

Physician burnout continues to be a pervasive issue, according to Medscape, despite an almost 9% improvement from 5 years ago. Of the 3 generations surveyed, Gen X physicians had the highest rate of burnout at 48%, compared with 38% for millennials and 39% for baby boomers, while urology (54%) and public health and preventive medicine (29%) were the fields with the most and least burnout, respectively. The top reasons leading to burnout include administrative tasks, long hours, workload, and lack of support, with millennials preferring to sleep their burnout off and Gen Xers and baby boomers choosing to exercise or stay to themselves. Some would even take a pay cut to get a better work-life balance.

DEA Says Opioid Doses in the Billions

Data from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) show that 100 billion doses of the opioids oxycodone and hydrocodone flooded the United States between 2006 and 2014, per The Washington Post. That’s 31.5% more than previously thought. Seventy-six percent alone originated from McKesson Corp, Cardinal Health, Walgreens, AmerisourceBergen, CVS, and Walmart. During this same period, more than 130,000 Americans alone died from prescription opioid use, with West Virginia having the highest death rate among the states.

FDA Drug Approvals Going Through Faster With Less Evidence, Study Says

The FDA may be speeding up the rate at which it approves new prescription drugs, but it’s accomplished that by relying on weaker evidence, according to a new JAMA study. The Center for Biosimilars reported that instead of results from 2 or more trials, the FDA is now handing down approvals based on results from 1 trial. And compared with 1986 through 1992, when it took 2.8 years for a new drug application to be reviewed, 2018 saw that time drop to just 10.1 months. Lead study author Jonathan Darrow, a lawyer with Harvard Medical School's Program on Regulation, Therapeutics and Law, worries that regulatory changes laws meant to spur drug development (eg, Orphan Drug Act, Prescription Drug User Fee Act) instead put the needs of the pharmaceutical industry ahead of patients.