Is Your Doctor Acting in Your Best Interest?

Jay Stillman

3 min read

Stillman and Friedland always encourage our clients to be their own informed health advocates.  In this post we are adding another tool to the list of healing strategies we have already researched and provided for you.

Doctors are now required to report all payments and favors received from pharmaceutical and medical device companies.  You can use this Open Payments Data link to search for your doctor and see if he or she is getting gifts of meals, trips, and consulting or speaker fees from drug companies.   (payments data is only available for 2013 and 2014—the 2015 data will be available later.)

Why does it matter?  Via online data, every time your doctor prescribes a drug for you, the drug companies see that information.  In other words, if drug company “XYZ” sees that the doctor is regularly writing prescriptions for their product, they can react accordingly.   This means that the doctor may have an incentive to “sell” XYZ’s product, whether or not that is the best treatment available.

According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM):

“The problem of conflict of interest arises because in some circumstances in modern medicine these goals and obligations are at risk of being compromised by the undue pursuit of financial gain or other secondary interests.”

You can also search for kickback info for a hospital to see if there is an institutional relationship between your practitioner’s hospital and a drug or device manufacturer.  If you are prescribed a brand name drug, for example, you can see if that firm made payments or gave out perks to your doctor‘s affiliated hospital.

Please remember that devices such as joint replacements for knee and rotator cuff injuries and back implants can be promoted by a medical device company.  None of these items is easily replaced should it fail.  Do your research to see if your orthopedic specialist has a relationship with a device manufacturer before agreeing to implant surgery.

According to drugwatch:

“The FDA approves the majority of new knee and hip implants through the 510(k) program, and clinical evidence continues to reveal the grave implications of the program’s flaws. Devices cleared through this process need only be ‘substantially equivalent’ to a device already on the market. This means patients often end up with inadequately tested devices implanted into their bodies.”

The good news is that with kickback information available online for health consumers, doctors are cutting back on the favors they choose to take from drug companies.  One area, however, where doctors are still making substantial income from drug and medical devices manufacturers is in the area of research.

Payments for physician research can be in excess of $1 million per year for participating doctors.

When doctors are compensated for research, the ethics of using uninformed patients  come into question.   In cases where patients are aware that the doctor is compensated for research, do patients understand all the implications, or does their trust in the doctor prevent them from considering the issues?  Are the patients given a possibly unsuitable medication, when an effective treatment already exists? If doctors are paid per patient, is there an incentive to give unnecessary or less than optimal treatment that may increase the doctor’s income?  On the other hand, if the doctor is simply paid per study, will the study be based on such a small sample that results may be meaningless?  Is there a bias to get the results the drug or device company wants?

There are many problems inherent in the relationship between doctors and the pharmaceutical and medical device companies. In order to optimize your care and healing, you must act as your own advocate.  We hope this post helps you in your post-accident injury recovery and in other areas of your personal health as well. 

The relationship with your attorney is, thankfully, a more straightforward relationship.   The better we do for you, the better for us as well. At Stillman and Friedland, we take the legal hassle off of your plate and offer you our expertise as your partner and your advocate.

Video:  When financial benefits make drugs dangerous:

When Doctors Take 'Kickbacks' from Big Pharma

Because we care….

Stillman & Friedland