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Oncologists Keep Their Eye On Profits

June 12, 2007

By Greedy Trial Lawyer

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Category: Gaming The System

Are oncologists uniquely focused on maximizing profits within the medical profession? Are they the only specialty which is willing to provide meaningless and expensive care to dying patients?

Chemotherapy: profits vs. questionable benefits to patients

A story in the NYTimes today reports that oncologists are still trying to find ways to profit from treating their patients with expensive drugs, even though Medicare has cracked down on such profits two years ago (by limiting the markups docs can charge to 6% above the cost of the drug).

Doctors can get around the limitations in reimbursement by simply offering drugs to more patients, whether or not they'll benefit from them.

The words of Emily DeVoto, Ph.D. at The Anidote: Counterspin for Health Care and Health News

The Times story has some shocking information and statements:

With the new limits on cancer drug profits, some cancer doctors are searching for new income -- like performing chemotherapy more often or installing multimillion-dollar imaging machines where they profit when their patients receive diagnostic scans.

They are also putting new pressure on cancer patients to make out-of-pocket drug co-payments, which can amount to hundreds of dollars a month. In some cases, they are requiring patients to get injections of certain drugs at the hospital instead of in their offices.

Ari Straus, the chief operating officer of Aurora Healthcare Consulting, which works with doctors to increase their profits, said Medicare's changes had squeezed oncologists. "Five years ago, many physicians were earning over $1 million per year on drug sales alone," Mr. Straus said.

As long as oncologists continue to be paid by the procedure instead of for spending time with patients, they will find ways to game the system, however much money they make or lose on prescribing drugs, [according to Dr. Robert Geller].

"People go where the money is, and you'd like to believe it's different in medicine, but it's really no different in medicine," Dr. Geller said. "When you start thinking of oncology as a business, then all these decisions make sense."

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