Does the doctor who treats your Migraines and / or headaches receive payment from pharmaceutical companies for speaking engagements?
ProPublica recently published a block of content, called Dollars for Docs, on doctors being paid by pharmacuetical companies, mostly for speaking engagements during which they educate other doctors about medications they use in their practices. In an editorial, ProPublica questions the objectivity of these doctors and suggests that being paid by pharmaceutical companies compromises their judgement and the care we receive from them.
Treating Migraines and headaches is difficult to say the least, especially for those of us who are "difficult cases." There are too few specialists, and our family doctors and general neurologists treat too many conditions to be even remotely able to keep up with the medications and other developments in the treatment of every condition they treat. The doctors who are part of pharmaceutical company speaker bureaus take their time to prepare and speak to groups of doctors who are interested in learning more about particular medications. They are NOT told what to say by the pharmaceutical companies; they speak from personal experience and knowledge.
To think that these doctors could do this without compensation is naive or foolish. Contrary to popular belief, very few doctors make a lot of money practicing medicine. The costs of practicing medicine are skyrocketing just like every thing else in this economy. Staffing, office rent or mortgage, equipment, supplies, malpractice insurance, and so on. If doctors accept Medicaid, they're often paid less than it costs them to treat those patients. Medicare is nearly as bad. It all adds up to reduced income for the doctors. And yet, they have the same needs and dreams that we have -- a home, raising children, saving for retirement. I know of several Migraine specialists who no longer see patients for this reason. They've gone into research instead. If they can supplement their income by sharing their knowledge and expereince with other doctors -- which, in turns, helps the patients of the other doctors -- MORE POWER TO THEM!
The people at ProPublica seem to think that doctors should take time from our appointments with them to tell us if they're paid speakers and give us the detaisl. Yeah, right! Does your doctor have enough time in his day to add that time to every appointment? Of course not. That would mean taking away from the time we have with them -- time that needs to be spent on our health care.
So... Does the doctor who treats your Migraines and / or headaches receive payment from pharmaceutical companies for speaking engagements? Mine do, and I think it's great that they can share their knowledge and expertise with other doctors so those doctors can give their patients better care. If they supplement their income while they're at it, that's fine by me. If they were the kind of people and doctors who would be swayed or biased by it, they wouldn't be the great doctors that they are.
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© Teri Robert, 2010
Last updated November 8, 2010