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Showing posts from January, 2012

Drug Marketing and Data Mining: Free Speech or Free Ride?

Pharm Tractor Mining Physician Data Drug reps come to our office fairly regularly, but not as often as they used to. Some of them look like regular folks, but many still look a lot like Barbie and Ken. These guys have a tough job. It’s hard to cultivate relationships when you can’t pay off physicians with free trips or offers of remuneration for serving as a ‘consultant’. Remember ‘dine and dash’? Despite these prior excesses, I do not disparage pharm reps, many of whom are ethical professionals who have developed vertical knowledge on a narrow niche of medicine. I have learned from them, but I remember that they are salesmen. Caveat emptor. Drug reps face other challenges beyond the ban on ballgame and theater tickets. We physicians are often constrained by insurance company formularies that dictate what we can prescribe. The insurance companies would balk at that statement and would offer a lawyerly response that, of course, we physicians can prescribe any drug that we believe

Concierge Medicine and Boutique Medical Practices: Cure or Disease?

Some time ago, I rented a car during a visit to another city. I chose among the various categories of vehicles which are listed from the last expensive to the most costly. Here were my choices. • Economy • Compact • Intermediate • Standard • Full Size • Premium • Luxury As I have pointed out on this blog with regard to medical care, people spend other people’s money much more easily than they spend their own. This is why I have argued that patients need to have some ‘skin in the game’ to serve as a brake on profligate medical spending. There may be other effective brakes to consider, but diagnostic and therapeutic restraint demanded by patients is a potent and reasonable option. In the rental car case, I was not on someone else’s expense account, but was handing over Kirsch cash. I chose a standard sized vehicle. Of course, I could have saved $$$ by driving off in an economy vehicle, but rental cars are priced like movie popcorn. For a few dollars more per day, you c

Does Revised American College of Physicians Ethics Manual Need Revision?

I regard myself as a spirited patient advocate. (What doctor doesn’t?) When facing a patient, I try to focus entirely on the patient’s interest. My advice is hopefully not tainted by the patient’s insurance status or external influences. A patient without medical insurance should receive the same medical advice as a corporate CEO, although the former may reject the medical advice for financial reasons. As Whistleblower readers know, I am a conservative practitioner of the art and science of gastroenterology. I first developed this medical world view as an intern and resident, and remained a parsimonious practitioner even after completing a gastroenterology fellowship at an institution where patients were routinely subjected to a tsunami of testing. I don’t pull the colonoscopy trigger easily or order many imaging studies. I prefer to prescribe a tincture of time instead of a test. Most patients appreciate this measured approach, although some prefer the tsunami. I don’t practice

Cigarette Warning Labels May Go Up in Smoke

We live in a free society. One of our most treasured freedoms is our right to free speech. This means that we are free to advertise goods and services to potential customers, although commercial speech does not enjoy the same constitutional protection as does noncommercial speech. Some advertised products are good for us and others aren’t. In many cases, the worth and value of the product are in dispute. Nevertheless, if a product is legal, the manufacturer is entitled to advertise and to lure customers. While an advertisement may not be false, it may not be the complete truth either. We expect that these pitches will be buffed and sanitized to present the product in a favorable light. That’s why they’re called advertisements, and not testimony. It would be absurd for a company to include negative material about its products in its promotional materials, barring a legal requirement to do so. While issuing product warnings and legal disclaimers may be a laudable public interest mane

Can Spiral CT Scans Detect Curable Lung Cancer? But Wait, There's More!

A hundred bucks doesn’t buy much these days. A crisp Ben Franklin can be exchanged for 50 Big Macs A Broadway show ticket A night in a New York City hotel (just joking) A college textbook (paperback) Your life Your life? Yes, 5 crumpled Andy Jacksons can save your life, as was reported earlier this year in a front page article in The Plain Dealer, Cleveland’s only daily newspaper. University Hospitals is now offering a $99 spiral computed tomography (CT scans) of the chest in individuals who are at increased risk of developing lung cancer. The rationale is that if cancers can be detected early, then the cure rate for surgical removal is very high. Gary Schwitzer, medical blogger and press watchdog, tries to bring some balance to the distorted media coverage of CT lung cancer reportage. The test is not covered by insurance, so consumers will have to hand over 10 Al Hamiltons to get in the door. I’m a deep skeptic of this effort, and predict that with some more time, the