As a South Miami lawyer who sues doctors, I was very pleased to see that President Obama is making an effort to kill the conflict of interest that exists between patients and their doctors who receive money from drug and medical device manufacturers. Currently doctors who receive money from the same pharmaceutical companies that make the drugs they prescribe their patients are not required to disclose that fact.
A recent report to Congress shows that drug and device manufactures have extensive financial relationships with doctors, medical schools and professional organization. Accordingly, there exist conflicts between what is in the best interest of drug makers and what is best for patients.
Some of the relationships between doctors and drug makers are all business; others are less obvious. But the evidence is clear that at least some interactions between doctors and drug reps leads to an increase in prescriptions of newer and more expensive drugs. In fact, a recent New York Times article reported that a quarter of U.S. doctors receive cash payments from drug makers and nearly two-thirds accept routine gifts. They also found that doctors who take cash from the makers of dangerous drugs Yaz and Yazmin practice medicine differently from those who do not and are more likely to prescribe medication in unapproved ways.
Under President Obama’s new standard, sponsored by Senator Grassely of Iowa and Senator Kohl of Wisconsin in the 2010 health care bill, the reporting requirement will apply if the company produces any product covered by Medicare or Medicaid. This will affect more than 1,000 drug, device and distribution companies.
We agree that Congress should require all drug and medical device manufactures and distributors to report and disclose their financial relationships with doctors, physicians’ groups and pharmacists. The recommendations should go further and include pharmacies, pharmacists, health insurance plans and hospitals. To keep doctors honest, they should also have to report all gifts, food, entertainment, golf outings, or anything of more than $1.00 value given to them on the side.
The information should be placed on a public website or app that is available to every consumer of health care in this country, both in English and Spanish. We believe this is an important step to protecting patients from greedy doctors and dangerous drug manufacturers.
Florida’s doctors should not feel too bad about this new law, as Florida’s First District Court of Appeal recently held that Florida’s Medical Malpractice Statute §766.206 entitles doctors or hospitals to a dismissal of a medical malpractice case and to hold a claimant (patient) or claimant’s attorney “personally liable for all attorney’s fees and costs included during the investigation and evaluation of a potential medical malpractice claim if the exact requirements of the ‘reasonable investigation’ requirements of §766.201-766.212,” which includes a review of the claim and a sworn written and notarized opinion by an expert witness.
What is even more frightening is that §766.206 provides that if the lawyer who mailed the notice does not do a “reasonable investigation” or filed the claim without first mailing a notice of intent, the court has to report that lawyer to the Florida Bar. If the lawyer is reported three or more times within a 5-year period the Florida Supreme Court shall be notified. This puts a heavy burden on a lawyer who represents injured new born babies in Florida to have both experience and knowledge of Florida’s complex medical malpractice statutory scheme. In addition it provides doctors with one more shield to protect themselves from aggressive patients’ advocates.