Big Pharma = Big Bucks

   Follow the money.  It applies to politics and to medicine.   Reporters Tracy Weber and Charles Orenstein, both formerly of the Los Angeles Times (where they put together a blockbuster investigative series on the Martin Luther King Jr. Medical Center here in Los Angeles) have a new piece on that’s worth your time.   It’s entitled “Dollars for Docs.”  It deals with the tens of thousands of dollars big pharma pays physicians to promote their products.

According to Weber and Orenstein-

“Fewer than half are formal educators affiliated with academic medical centers or prominent leaders in their medical societies. The rest are a mix of physicians with limited credentials or about whom little could be gleaned despite searches of research publications, academic websites and professional society leadership lists.”

 “ProPublica identified 384 health providers who earned more than $100,000 total from one or more of the seven companies that have disclosed payments in 2009 and early 2010.”

It’s one more example of the unholy alliance between American medicine and capitalism, making life a commodity you can buy–if you’ve got the money or you happen to be 65 or older.  Not everyone in the medical establishment (industry) is buying into it.   Weber and Orenstein point out that the Cleveland Clinic, prohibits its doctors from participating in the big pharma payout to docs who promote their pills.

Here’s a thought:  Maybe John Boehner and his Republican buddies will author a bill making it illegal for physicians to accept payments in return for promoting pharmaceutical products.   While they’re at it, they could restore some sanity and a bit of dignity to the medical biz by reinstating the ban on the advertising of medical products.   How about it, John?  I mean, you do want to be Speaker of the House, so you should want to do the right thing for the American people, right?

Oh wait.  I see you’ve received more than $146,000 in contributions from the health professionals industry over the 2009/2010 fundraising cycle?  Beyond that, it appears big pharma has donated $14,859,658 to both Republicans and Democrats, with more going to the Democrats than the Republicans since Mr. Obama took office.

Guess that kind of puts a damper on getting anything meaningful done for “we the people,” doesn’t it?


Note:  Dr. Sanjay Gupta is on the ProPublica list.   However, this is not the same Sanjay Gupta who is on CNN.  It’s a different doc, a psychiatrist, with the same name.

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