Most people accept a physician’s word as gospel. If a physician prescribes medicine for what ails you, then that must be the best one available for your circumstance, right?
Not necessarily. Some doctors get paid handsome sums for prescribing certain drugs.
UAB Hospital in Birmingham, Ala., now requires physicians to report payments from drug companies for research and fees they receive for speaking engagements. Other hospitals are considering the same thing. And there is a provision in the Obamacare law that will kick in in 2013 that will require all drug and medical device companies to report what they pay doctors.
Partial disclosures for yearly commissions at UAB, as reported by The Birmingham News:
- Dr. William Bailey: $250,365
- Dr. William Geisler: $201,570
- Dr. Warner Huh: $91,275
- Dr. John Northrock: $78,000
It appears they are the rule rather than the exception. The ProPublica website has been working on an expose called Dollars for Docs for several months. It has a list of payments made by 12 of more than 70 drug companies to doctors and practices across the country. It also has a feature to allow you to search your own doctor.
Some other random examples:
- Dr. Leon H. Kircik in Louisville, Ky.: $305,306
- Dr. Yury Furman in Los Angeles: $284,561
- Dr. David Guthman in Arlington Heights, Ill.: $278,746
- Dr. Fred D. Sheftell in Stamford, Conn.: $167,650
- Dr. Scott P. Hoopes in Meridian, Idaho: $133,393
This is not to say that these doctors, nor any other particular doctor, would intentionally prescribe a medication based solely on fees he or she had been paid by a drug company or intentionally try to harm a patient.
But I personally know of instances in which doctors have prescribed medicines for people despite warnings of harmful side effects — not to mention the side effects that occur but the Food and Drug Administration won’t admit to. In one instance a woman older than 70 was prescribed a drug for a urinary tract infection even though it was not recommended for anyone over age 60. In another, a physician encouraged his pregnant patient to have a flu vaccine.
Legally peddling drugs is a multibillion-dollar business. If a doctor prescribes a medication for you, be sure you research it and understand the possible consequences before taking it.