Opioid ball rolling down hill Cabell County, West Virginia, received 32 times more dollars in prescription opioid marketing than the national average–and saw the most prescription opioid overdose deaths during the months surveyed. (Image: Shutterstock)

As pharmaceutical companies face hundreds of lawsuits over their role in the U.S. opioid epidemic, new research suggests a link between their marketing practices and overdose-related deaths.

U.S. counties where doctors received high volumes of opioid marketing saw more prescriptions and, in turn, more overdose deaths, according to a study funded in part by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and published by the Grayken Center for Addiction at Boston Medical Center. Almost $40 million was spent on opioid marketing — including speaking fees, travel costs and lunches — that was distributed to 67,507 U.S. physicians between August 2013 and December 2015.

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