Some docs reap rich cash crop from Big Pharma

Expensive healthcare

Expensive healthcare

Can you imagine your specialist being paid $594,663 by Big Pharma in one year to promote their products, tests and treatments?

That’s how much New Hampshire nephrologist Ana Stankovic ‘earned’ in 2014, according to ProPublica’s Dollars for Docs interactive data base.

Stankovic  declined to make comments, but is listed on her website as Vice Chief of Staff at Parkland Medical Center HCA, Inc., of Derry, NH and Medical Director of Peritoneal Dialysis, Inc, also of Derry.

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services say this is nothing new. Interactions and relationships between doctors and Big Pharma are widespread, not only with physicians, but with dentists, optometrists, podiatrists and chiropractors.

This cozy relationship inspired a Detroit area doc (Dr. Farid Fata) to falsely diagnose 500 Americans with cancer and reap millions of dollars from insurance companies and the government, not to mention harming all those patients with needless injections and infusions, including radiation and chemo.

Fata was subsequently indicted. John Fitz, of Jersey City, New Jersey, has also been indicted—for referring patients to a medical imaging center in return for $500,000 in kickbacks. There are several others, less publicized.

But new laws require transparency not previously available.

ProPublica has been tracking Big Pharma payments since 2010. But now part of the Affordable Care Act includes the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, that mandates drug and device companies to report payments. The transparency effort is called ‘Open Payments.’

The new reporting law revealed that payments from Big Pharma to the medical industry totaled $3.5 billion over just 17 months!

But don’t be dismayed. Just know your doctor. Although more than 600,000 physicians nationwide receive regular payments from Big Pharma, most of them receive under $200 annually.

The big bucks go to specialists. For instance, Stankovic promotes some of the most expensive drugs on earth, H.P. Acthar Gel and Soliris. Soliris is considered highly effective for treating serious kidney disease, but the Gel ($39,000 per prescription) is considered no more effective than much cheaper brands, according to Medicare data.

ProPublica analysis turned up big differences in payments among specialties. Rheumatologists had the most interactions with drug and device companies, followed closely by endoctrinologists, electrophysiologists, and interventional cardiologists.

Dr. Aaron Kesselheim, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, has written extensively about Pharma/physician relationships. He said there is no doubt that these relationships affect many physicians’ prescribing and judgment.

Like real estate. the medical industry is a ‘Buyers’ Beware’ market.


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