Who Hijacked Our Country

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Doctors: Going the way of the Telephone Operator and the Milk Man

How quaint. Remember those halcyon days when people got their medical advice and treatment from a D-O-C-T-O-R? These were people whose entire profession was devoted to the practice of medicine. They couldn’t even set up their own practice until they had a Ph.D.

Well, savor the memory. At the rate things are going, doctors will soon be joining the hula hoop and the stage coach in those nostalgic "remember when..." articles.

More and more articles in medical journals — and the “research” behind them — are being written by the pharmaceutical companies. Doctors and medical researchers are allowing their names to be used, but the actual writing is done by the drug companies. Doctors, regulators and publishers have all been taking bribes and other “gifts” from Big Pharm, and in return they’re rolling over for them.

This shouldn’t be surprising. It’s similar to the change that’s already taken place with politicians. Face it — our senators and congressional representatives are pretty much just secretaries now, taking dictation from the CEOs and lobbyists who are actually writing the laws. Or you could say they’re prostitutes, bending and gyrating according to their johns’ instructions.

(Er, didn’t mean to insult either secretaries or prostitutes by comparing them to politicians.)

And now doctors. So when your doctor gives you medical advice or a prescription, will this be based on medical research conducted by scientists? Or will it come from the latest market research by GlaxoSmithKline?

The word “doctor” is totally ingrained in our everyday vocabulary. Think of all the common phrases that will need to evolve in order to keep up with the times. “Ask your doctor about…” — those ubiquitous TV ads will have to change that to “ask your pharmaceutical consultant about...”

That warning label on your medication will read “if symptoms persist, see your Merck sales rep immediately.” Practicing medicine without a license — that won’t matter any more. But practicing medicine without an MBA, that’ll get you in some big big trouble.

This post was brought to you by MerckPfizerRocheBayerJohnson&Johnson. (Yes we’ve all merged; I thought you knew.)

cross-posted at Bring It On!

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Blogger Adam said...

Which is exactly why the government needs to get out of the health industry. If Congress is available for Rx companies to exploit, the deck is always going to be stacked against us, regardless of the rhetoric.

April 17, 2008 at 12:33 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Adam: I don't really have a solution to the healthcare crisis, but I'm leaning toward the kind of system that Canada and most of Western Europe are using. It seems to work for them.

The system we're using now sure doesn't work. Doctors and patients are both getting squeezed, and the insurance and pharmaceutical industries are running the show.

April 17, 2008 at 3:39 PM  
Anonymous Kvatch said...

Hell...I'd be happy just to be able to see a docto--I mean...a "pharmaceutical professional. Here in Babylon by the Bay just getting in to see your primary is a trick.

April 17, 2008 at 7:59 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Kvatch: Yeah, I sure heard lots of horror stories about Kaiser when I lived in Northern California.

April 18, 2008 at 12:12 AM  
Blogger LET'S TALK said...

So that is why I am giving free samples of drugs that seem to have more side affects than the help that the drug is supposed to help.

It seems that pharmaceutical companies pimp doctors to pimp their drugs that lead you to overpay for some drug that you do not need in the first place.

April 18, 2008 at 3:05 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Let's Talk: "pharmaceutical companies pimp doctors to pimp their drugs that lead you to overpay for some drug that you do not need in the first place."

Yup, that's it in a nutshell. You've got 'em dialed.

April 18, 2008 at 10:17 AM  
Blogger illnoise said...

I wonder sometimes if a national healthcare system would be more or less corrupt than the current private healthcare system. Medicare and Medicaid have proved to be more efficient than private health insurance, but if we nationalize the system taxpayers would end up paying for all of these drugs that the drug companies are coercing doctors into selling.

there needs to be someway of getting drug companies to develop a drug that will help people, instead of developing viagra 2 and Super Cialis. Lets cure the cold first. we have to find a way to take the power out of the drug companies before nationalizing health care.

April 18, 2008 at 12:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Journalists are owned by big corps hence Gibsonopoulos moderating the "democratic debate" in Philly? The government is owned by big businesses and now doctors. What next, our schools? Are we going to start paying our student loans to private companies? When that happens I'm moving to a socialist country.


April 18, 2008 at 12:17 PM  
Blogger Randal Graves said...

Hey, research costs money, damn you all!

I'm lucky in that no one in my immediate family has had a debilitating illness, but that's when the bottom falls out and we really see just how shitty the system is here. I have relatively good coverage, but if a life-threatening disease showed up, we'd be fucked.

Then there are those who have no insurance. Or a pre-existing condition, which drops you into a lower class altogether. The entire game is rigged to funnel loot to the insurance companies and pharmaceuticals.

You know, because research costs money.

April 18, 2008 at 1:28 PM  
Blogger Candace said...

Actually, most pharmacists know more about drugs and drug interactions than doctors-- something to think about next time you're given a new scrip. It's good to check with the guy at the pharmacy counter for any problems to look for first.

I resist taking anything "new, new, and/or improved," too, because I know in a couple of years, they'll discover something horrible about it - like heart defects (as in Phen-Phen), or even just something stupid - like it doesn't actually work (Zetia.)

As to healthcare, what Michael Moore suggested was taking the best of several plans, from Canada and Europe, and putting them together, leaving out the parts that seem to cause the most trouble for doctors and patients. Of course, that makes so much sense that it will never happen.

I'd really like to see us get the exact coverage that Congress gets, which btw is government-regulated.

April 18, 2008 at 1:38 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Illnoise: Yes, there definitely needs to be an incentive for drug companies to develop drugs that actually serve a purpose. Most of those TV ads are for feelgood drugs. "Feeling shy/inadequate/unhappy? Can't sleep? Ask your doctor about..." Meanwhile we still have fatal incurable diseases.

Sort of a variation on having people die because they can't afford the $200,000 treatment they need; while other people go "gee, a new wrinkle; I'll go ahead and schedule my umpteenth plastic surgery."

Jo: Yup, schools will be next. Imagine a kid coming home from school on the first day: "look mom, here's my Exxon history book, my Halliburton math text..." Just another day at Bechtel Middle School.

Randal: Ah yes, those pre-existing conditions; the lifeblood of the insurance industry. And it's too bad research is so damned expensive. Those ubiquitous TV ads can't possibly be raising enough money to pay for all the campaign contributions, er, I mean research, that they need to do.

Candace: That makes sense, that pharmacists would have more drug knowledge than doctors. Still, some of their knowledge probably came from the drug companies' marketing department rather than science. (That's my guess anyway.)

I agree we should take the best of Canadian and European health care systems. Right now we've got the worst of everything: it's more cumbersome and expensive than any of those "socialized" plans, but with tense of millions of people having no coverage. And yes, is Congress is convinced that "socialized medicine" is evil, they should give up their own socialized coverage.

April 18, 2008 at 2:01 PM  
Blogger Adam said...

Our system is far from the worst. If you have a deadly illness in the US, you go into heavy debt. If you have one in Britain, you die. And he's a great filmmaker, but I wouldn't turn to Michael Moore for policy advice... cinema is better at conveying emotion than facts.

Insurance monopolies work against the consumer because they've used the government to create laws that bar other insurance companies from offering better and cheaper coverage. It's a pretty open secret. We're not in a socialist system, but not in a capitalist or free market one either...

April 18, 2008 at 2:25 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Adam: I have to agree with your last statement that "We're not in a socialist system, but not in a capitalist or free market one either..." Like I said earlier, I don't claim any expertise on our healthcare crisis; but I think we should borrow from ideas that are working in other countries.

I'm not a Libertarian (which I assume you are, from looking at your blog) but they have a lot of valid ideas. I don't agree with all of them but I'm a member of Downsize DC.

April 18, 2008 at 2:34 PM  
Blogger rockync said...

As a nurse (although not practicing much any more), I have the education and resources available to research any drugs and conditions that come up in our family. I also shopped around for a doctor willing to work with me. When he wanted to prescribe hubby something for high cholesterol, I had hubby primed on the subject. "I don't want a statin, why can't I try fish oil?" Doc looked at him and said, "That will probably work just as well." We both take about 7,000 mg a day. From time to time I suffer from nighttime leg cramps. Doc and I agreed to use quinine sulfate -- pretty much quinine in pill form. No side effects and it usually works.
Bottom line; you need to do your homework and be proactive about your own healthcare.
I'm also more in favor of a national healthcare system, but I expect it will be an uphill battle to initiate.

April 18, 2008 at 2:41 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Rockync: Let's hear it for fish oil. I take it, and I give it to our cats too. I don't think natural is always better, but there are lots of inexpensive natural remedies that really work.

You're right that people need to be more proactive and informed. I'm leaning toward favoring a national healthcare system, but there needs to be a strong incentive for people to play an active role in their own health. And fortunately it sounds like more doctors are taken an open view toward "alternative" treatments.

April 18, 2008 at 3:07 PM  
Blogger Lew Scannon said...

Now I know why when I go to my PPO, I never get to see my doctor, only the PA. The doctor's too busy signing his name to a study performed by some pharmaceutical company. It's a win-win for them. the doctor gets his name in a medical journal and the pharmaceutical company gets free advertising.

April 18, 2008 at 7:53 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Lew: Yup, it's a win-win for doctors and the pharmaceutical companies; and it's totally fucked for everybody else.

April 18, 2008 at 8:10 PM  
Blogger The Prince of Centraxis said...

Thank heavens the dogturs and other so-called professionals are being seen off at last. Perhaps you're not aware that DOCTORS are now the main cause of death in the US - and here in Australia.
I know many doctors personally. They're all in it for the money - the exceptions are ludicrously rare.
see http://newilluminati.blog-city.com
and adam - the only good thing about medicine here in Oz is that the Government is involved - MEDICAL CARE IS FREE! And before you suggest that people get the medicine they pay for - it's the love of money, authority and control that's the problem, not free medicine. Public health care is intrinsically less corrupt.
Don't call the merchants of death 'pharmaceutical companies' - they're CHEMICAL companies.

April 19, 2008 at 2:53 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Prince: You make some good points. I don't know if I'd go as far as to say doctors are the leading cause of death, but our health-industrial complex (doctors, drug companies and insurance companies) is entirely about profit. Any actual health benefits are just a byproduct.

April 19, 2008 at 10:34 AM  
Blogger Mauigirl said...

Great post, and it is scary.

I agree with Kvatch - another issue is trying to see the actual doctor. They are so busy what with all the patients they have to see that they have a lot of medical assistants that do most of what you come to the doctor for.

April 20, 2008 at 7:26 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Mauigirl: Our healthcare system seems to have all the worst traits of every other system. We have the huge bureaucracy of a European style healthcare system, but millions of people aren't covered. And our HMOs are working tirelessly to find a reason, any possible excuse, that they don't cover the specific treatment you need.

April 20, 2008 at 10:59 AM  

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