Gratuitous Doctor Bashing

This week’s award for the best doctor bashing compound sentence in a major national media so-called news article goes to USA TODAY for this gem on page 1 of the April 25-27 Weekend edition:

 “The 10 drug companies that make the most money from doctors using their products on Medicare patients spent more than $236 million to lobby Congress and the executive branch between 2009 and 2013, according to lobbying records compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics and new federal data.”

Wow! That’s going after several birds with one stone.

While I admire the journalistic effort to shine light on the real bad guys – Big drug companies, their lobbyists, and the bribes – er, contributions, sorry — they distribute at the congressional and executive levels, I fail to see why doctor bashing had to be included in the initial sentence.

Yes, doctors prescribe the drugs that USA TODAY is critical of – mainly Lucentis vs. Avastin ($2000 vs. $50 per injection) for macular degeneration. But those are the same two drugs the national media have been citing for years now. And they have used this issue to bash all doctors who care for Medicare patients, even the lowly primary care doctors who make nothing from Lucentis, while toiling in the trenches listening to a myriad of complaints while not having the time or the money to get to a Mercedes dealership to press their noses against the window and view the overpriced $60K Mercedes CLA 45 that USA TODAY features on page 4B of the Money Section.

But the real villains who allow this bribery to go on are members of Congress who take the contributions and protect the big drug companies.

USA TODAY could have asked why there is no competitive bidding for Medicare drugs?  And why did it take so long for there to be some competitive bidding for durable medical equipment, like the infamous seat lift chairs that I reported on for local TV news in the early 1990s?  Maybe USA TODAY would like to investigate that?

What is even more interesting is how the print edition of the story differs from the electronic version:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2014/04/24/drugmakers-lobbying-medicare-payments/8055901/

The electronic version is much longer and actually deals with some specific examples of drug company lobbying that might have increased costs to Medicare. Doctors were not involved in those political decisions. Those decisions were made by politicians and bureaucrats.

Yes, I know that doctors prescribe the drugs that make drug companies rich. With the exception of a few abusive eye MDs, most doctors don’t get rich prescribing brand name drugs.  USA TODAY should have constructed the lead sentence of the print version of the story this way:

“The 10 drug companies that make the most money from Medicare patients spent more than $236 million to lobby Congress and the executive branch between 2009 and 2013, according to lobbying records compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics and new federal data.”

Besides, it’s Medicare patients who USE the drug products. Its doctors who prescribe them, along with nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

The print article implies that there is wrong-doing in the Medicare program promoted by the lobbying efforts but doesn’t provide one shred of such evidence.  All the people who read USA TODAY while traveling and at hotels deserve the full story – free of doctor bashing.

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