House Votes For Wining And Dining Of Docs — What’s Your Reaction?

One Twitter headline this morning: “More corruption for health care.”

The lead news from the Massachusetts House of Representatives today is last night’s vote to limit municipal unions’ bargaining rights on health insurance. But this should not get lost in the shuffle: As The Boston Globe and The Boston Herald report, the House also voted to repeal the state’s ban on gifts to doctors from drug- and device-makers.

The rationale: the ban hurts the economy. The upshot: Let the wining and dining begin anew!

Backlash has already begun, in advance of the Senate’s expected vote on the issue in coming weeks. Our local AARP took quickly to its Internet guns on the issue. In a blog post, it concludes:

“Bottom line: The cost of free lunches and other perks for prescribers should not be footed by consumers who are struggling to afford their medication. AARP will fight to keep the gift ban on the books, and to bring down the high cost of prescription drugs. We urge the Senate to do the right thing, and protect the prescription drug company gift ban.”

And today’s Globe story, by excellent newcomer Chelsea Conaboy, concludes:

Gift-giving gives pharmaceutical companies an upper hand, said Eric Campbell, research director at the Mongan Institute for Health Policy at Massachusetts General Hospital.

If repealing the law gives a little boost to restaurants and other businesses, he said, “does that become more important than ensuring the accuracy and the integrity and the quality of the information that health practitioners receive?’’

Readers, thoughts???

Q&A: It’s Not Just Doctors Who Get Company Money And Gifts

Yesterday, when Massachusetts posted the nation’s most extensive database of commercial payments to health care providers, the first impulse for many of us was to look up our own doctors. But Georgia Maheras of the Massachusetts Prescription Reform Coalition points out that drug and device makers do not court only physicians.

“The industry will market to anyone who has the ability to prescribe to a patient,” she said. In the database are “many non-physician prescribers who received a lot of gifts.”

Q: So whom are we talking about here? Physicians’ assistants and nurse practitioners?

A: The database also provides information on Registered Nurses, Licensed Practical Nurses, Pharmacists, Dentists, Licensed Psychologists, Massage Therapists, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, Physical Therapists, Psych. Clinical Nurses, Respiratory Therapists, and Speech Pathologists

Q: What’s your sense of the numbers and sizes of the gifts and payments they receive, as compared to physicians?

A: In terms of gifts received, the non-physician prescribers received $ 3,521,879.71- this is just about 18% of the total amount paid to individuals (the rest was to physicians).
Over 3,000 non-physician prescribers received nearly 4,000 gifts and payments by industry. This compares to over 8,800 physicians who received over 18,000 payments and gifts.
Industry marketing to these individuals is significant and has grown dramatically over the past 10 years.

Q: What is your advice to a patient who looks up a non-physician provider who treats them and finds that the database does show that gifts or money have changed hands?

A: Patients should talk with their provider and ask them about it- especially if the patient is using a device or taking a drug by the company that gave their provider a gift. Patients should be confident in any provider’s ability to give them conflict-free care. Continue reading