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Ending the doctor gravy train

By Jay MacDonald ·
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Posted: 10 am ET

Before you swallow that new drug prescribed by your doctor, wouldn't you like to know whether the drug's manufacturer recently treated your physician to an all-expenses-paid golf junket to Pebble Beach or Hilton Head to extol its miracle properties?

The pills-for-perks dance is commonplace in modern medicine, where based on appearances alone, one might easily conclude that the tail is wagging the dog.

According to an analysis by The New York Times, about 1 in 4 doctors take cash directly from drug companies or medical device makers and 2 out of 3 take free food for themselves and their staff. And it works: according to the Times, those who ride the gravy train are more willing to prescribe drugs in unapproved or potentially risky ways.

Is your doctor prescribing the drug because he or she truly believes it's the best course of treatment for you? Or is it because Maui's Royal Kaanapali is the course they've always dreamed of playing?

Soon, you won't have to wonder. Healthcare reform architects are about to shine a spotlight into this ethical back alley by requiring all drug companies and makers of medical devices covered by Medicare or Medicaid to disclose all gifts or payments they make to doctors.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, every financial expenditure, from golf junkets to coffee and donuts for the doctor's office, will be posted by the federal government on a public website.

The bipartisan reform, sponsored by Sens. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa and Herb Kohl, D-Wis., was one of numerous consumer protections included in the Affordable Care Act.

Will public disclosure of the longstanding pills-for-perks practice end it? Hardly. The pharmaceutical industry isn't about to abandon one of its most cost-effective income-generating strategies, even if some doctors may beg off lest it cost them prestige and/or patients.

But at least it will finally give health insurance customers the opportunity to shop for a doctor who is not a frequent passenger on the pharmaceutical gravy train.

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March 12, 2012 at 6:41 pm

LOL, I am at least heartened by the fact that the writer is being ridiculed for his gratuitous headline grabbing. Seriously, I have also never, in over 10 years of practice, ever gotten anything more valuable than a book.

March 12, 2012 at 6:24 pm

If these so called pills do not work or have very adverse effects, then the doctor should be held accountable who prescribed them. I believe that doctors will push pills. I understand that if the Obama Health Care is passed the Obama Health Care Bill will be pushing to cut prices and in turn Medicare patients will not have but a few minutes to talk to their doctor if these drugs are really good for you. One thing I resist is a pill pusher.

Frances Bradley
March 12, 2012 at 4:26 pm

Instead of concentration on the Dr when are they going to shine the light on their own graft. Better to deflect it from their own corruption and in the meantime make it look like the are doing something to clean up the economy.

Dr. Steve
March 12, 2012 at 12:15 pm

This guy is still living in the 1990s. Rules came out a while ago prohibiting extravagant gifts like golf trips. I practiced medicine in solo family practice for 8 years and saw drug reps (mainly to get samples, since this was mostly pre-part D). The most valuable thing I was ever offered - a harcover Netter atlas - worth about $120 retail.
They also once paid me $75 for a talk on migraine headaches I gave to a lay audience at a college - I only mentioned their drug once, on a slide with 20 others.
Would you be influence by these sums? To compare, one moonlighting shift at the hospital can get you up to $1000.
Those fancy junkets were wrong when they happened, to be sure, but they are as rare as hen's teeth now.

March 12, 2012 at 12:45 am

Sincerely, have you been on ice or doing hard time for over a decade?
Docs and their staffs get at best a cheap box lunch and some education over the lunch hour from reps. You can't even get a pen anymore. Talk is cheap.

March 11, 2012 at 9:49 pm

I just want to say that my mom goes to a doctor that does see drug reps. One reason he sees drug reps is for the samples. My mom can't afford the drugs and every Wednesday she goes and gets samples of three drugs she could never afford.

March 11, 2012 at 9:22 pm

Gravy train or not, the average baby boomer on medicare or medicaid, is about to receive exactly the kind of healthcare they deserve, if they are lucky enough to find a red-blooded American doctor willing to deliver it. Otherwise Dr. Punjabi will be willing to see you in the office in 6-8 weeks. Will the last physician in America please turn off the lights?

Viceroy Cavendish
March 11, 2012 at 8:21 pm

Big Business and our elected officials are in bed together! Everyone is taken care of except the people. Our best commodity, the American people, are just as forgotten as the Native Americans. History repeats itself.

The colonists separated from Great Britain because there was taxation without representation.

And, here we are again! GWB spent 2.3 Trillion of our tax dollars on wars that he started, which we will never see any gain from except the fact that Social Security won't be around.

And, let's not forget. The people who work for us, judicial officials, and congress listened to wall st executives and voided our right to assemble and did you ever think you would see American people protesting about inequality and unfairness get pepper sprayed on our own streets?

If the 1% gets its way, we are headed for a police state which beats down its average citizen and protects its Rich and Powerful !

March 10, 2012 at 10:08 pm

Jay Mcdonald needs to acctually get out every once in a while. Even Food to stop you long enough to for 2 minuets while you get back to work is rare now. We do need more primary care providers (Family Practice MDs and Physician Assistants, FNP) making 80K - 125K. Harassing them about this while The congress goes on with Country Club living and insider trading ????

March 10, 2012 at 7:29 pm

i am glad these politicians who take million dollar junkets, receive large amounts of money from business groups and never are influenced by these can help us prevent those evil doctors receiving a pen from a drug company.