Your Health, brought to you by the highest bidder

This has been going on for a very long time. It’s in the New York Times again today. Pharmaceutical companies pay doctors to prescribe their medicine to patients. That’s right. No, you didn’t misunderstand. The same doctor that you pay to make you feel better is also being paid (and quite well) by the multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical industry to push drugs on you.

The payments are legal, but very few people outside of the doctors who receive them are aware of their size.

One practice received $2,700,000 in kickbacks for prescribing $9,000,000 worth of drugs. That’s just one practice, in one city, in one state. If the numbers aren’t big and scary yet, start multiplying. If only one practice per state is getting these kind of kickbacks, that’s still well over 100 million dollars. And… you guessed it… there’s multiple practices per state.

Yesterday, the Food and Drug Administration added to concerns about the drugs, releasing a report that suggested that their use might need to be curtailed in cancer patients. The report, prepared by F.D.A. staff scientists, said no evidence indicated that the medicines either improved quality of life in patients or extended their survival, while several studies suggested that the drugs can shorten patients’ lives when used at high doses.

Yikes! Doctors are being paid (very highly) to push medicine, which is then being prescribed to patients whom it isn’t noticeably helping, and may in fact actually be hurting? And the drugs, of course, are not free. The doc prescribes them. We pay for them.

Federal laws bar drug companies from paying doctors to prescribe medicines that are given in pill form and purchased by patients from pharmacies. But companies can rebate part of the price that doctors pay for drugs, like the anemia medicines, which they dispense in their offices as part of treatment.

I’m not seeing why one thing is illegal and the other is legal. It’s still the same thing. It’s somebody who’s health isn’t affected, influencing the doctor’s decisions.

Johnson & Johnson said yesterday in a statement that its rebates were not intended to induce doctors to use more medicine.

Does anybody really believe that? Do you really think you can throw millions of dollars at people for doing something you want them to do, and claim that you’re not inducing them to do it more often? I get paid far, far less than that, and I’m induced to do more of what they pay me to do. More money, more inducement. Just like politicians, who are induced to write the laws and loopholes that they do.

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