Panaceia or Hygeia

immunize yourself against the pandemic of lifestyle diseases

Posts Tagged ‘doctor’

“Health” spending in Canada hits $172-billion, outpacing inflation

Posted by Colin Rose on November 14, 2008

Drugs now cost more than doctors and the cost is rising faster than inflation. Sooner or later this insanity has to end. Probably sooner. With a likely world-wide depression in the next few years there will be awakening awareness that most of those expensive branded drugs, such as Lipitor and Crestor, are for lifestyle diseases, like Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and atherosclerosis, related to junk food addiction which can be prevented and treated without drugs. But we need to take a $few billion of that $172 billion and put it into addiction research. Addictions of many kinds are at the root of most of the problems of developed capitalist democracies.

Note that Japan which spends per capita on its “health care” system only 38% of the USA and 70% of Canada has a longer life expectancy than either. Ergo, there is no relation between money spent on hospitals, drugs and doctors and life expectancy; if any, there is an inverse correlation. While everyone uses the term “health care” for the activities and effects of hospitals, drugs and doctors, these are really disease care. Some diseases can be cured but most can’t and in a high tech, fee-for-service medical system with an incentive only to do more, more people will be killed by the technology than saved by it.

Jeffrey Simpson in the Globe and Mail suggests as a solution to exponentially increasing costs more private “health” care. That will only increase the total cost as people with just spend more to support their addictions. Doctors in a fee-for-service regime will be only to happy to oblige. The only long-term solution I can see is to put all doctors on a salary. In such a system the driving incentive is to keep people healthy so doctors have less work to do. Paying doctors per disease is like paying firemen per fire. Would there be more or less fires? Would there be any incentive for fire departments to promote fire prevention? In a regime of totally salaried doctors costs would drop dramatically and the health of the population would markedly improve.


Health spending hits $172-billion, outpacing inflation
BY BRADLEY BOUZANE Canwest News Service
National Post
14 Nov 2008

OTTAWA  Health care in Canada will cost $172-billion this year, or nearly $5,200 for every person in the country, according to figures released yesterday by the Canadian Institute for Health Information. The independent statistical agency says that…read more…

cihi-canada-world-healthcare-cost
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From the Globe and Mail, November 19, 2009

Listening to the sounds of health-care silence

JEFFREY SIMPSON

Where did health care go? Pollsters keep reporting that health care is the No. 1 issue for Canadians. We spend way more on it than on anything else. Yet, no one – well, almost no one – talks about it any more, at least not politically.
Sure, citizens recount their experiences with the system to each other. People who work in the system talk about it incessantly, health care being their world.
But as a public policy/political issue, health care has died. Died, despite the Canadian Institute for Health Information’s reporting last week that Canada will spend $172-billion this year on health, about 70 per cent from public sources. That works out to $5,170 per capita.
Health care gobbles up provincial (and federal) resources. It consumes 39 per cent of all provincial program expenditures – that is, spending on everything but  servicing the debt. In some provinces, health care’s share of program expenditures is 45 per cent. Soon, it will be 50 per cent and higher in all of them.
Health care consumed 7 per cent of the nation’s economic output in the mid-1970s, shortly after it was up and running. Now, it consumes 10.7 per cent. That share will keep on rising as the population ages, technology becomes more expensive, and demand grows.
No one knows how to stop the increase; in fact, large increases are hardwired into government spending plans. These increases are not improving the system, but they are keeping it from getting discernibly worse.
The Paul Martin government signed a deal with the provinces for a $41-billion transfer from Ottawa over 10 years starting in 2004-2005, with the transfer indexed yearly to 6 per cent. The Harper Conservatives, then in opposition, signed on to that deal and have never wavered.
Without that federal cash, provincial health-care plans would be struggling or imploding – or provinces would be forced to raise taxes or cut other services. As it is, their annual costs are rising by 4 per cent to 5 per cent after inflation. The federal cash keeps their systems afloat.
That’s one reason why silence surrounds the health-care debate. Caterwauling provinces can hardly complain about parsimonious Ottawa when such mighty rivers of federal cash are flowing their way. Similarly, almost complete silence reigns within federal politics, except for occasional election promises to spend  yet more money for provinces to hire more doctors. But with Ottawa already sending so much money to provincial capitals, these chirpings ring hollow.
It was cheap theatre for provinces to beat up on Ottawa when the federal government seemed to be rolling in dough. But after the Harper government spent the surplus it inherited by shovelling money to the provinces for the ‘fiscal imbalance,’ cut federal revenues through reductions to the GST and let spending proceed above the inflation rate, the surplus almost disappeared.
Now, with the economic tsunami upon us, the small surplus will head into deficit. Even if provinces clamoured for more health-care money, there wouldn’t be any.
The deeper reason for the silence is that no provincial government knows what to do about the system, except to keep it going, fiddle at the edges, try to improve administration here and there, negotiate the best collective bargaining agreements they can.
Nowhere in Canadian public affairs is the gap so wide between what those responsible for policy say and what they do. Privately, almost all of those responsible know that the spending increases are unsustainable and that some means must be found to allow more public services to be delivered privately.
Publicly, none of them dare say so.
Without that debate – and fear of public reaction keeps it closed – politicians spin their wheels, spend lots of money, patch the system, add something new here and there, and carry on.
The only idea for lowering the increase in health-care costs comes from those who claim, rightly, that the fastest-rising part of health-care budgets is the drug bill. Their answer: a national pharmaceutical plan integrated into medicare.
It might be recalled that, in 1997, Quebec introduced such a drug plan. It cost the treasury about $700-million that year. This year, the public cost will be $2.3-billion, a threefold increase in about a decade.

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AAMC Calls For Strict Limits on Industry Support of Medical Education

Posted by Colin Rose on August 26, 2008

It’s about time!

But I would extend the recommendations to eliminate all industry funding of CME. If doctors can’t pay for their own education who can?

There are many  industry funded chairs at medical schools, like the Novartis Chair at McGill that pays the head of cardiology, that should be eliminated and their endowments returned to the industry donors with interest. Surely, out of the $many millions collected by the cardiology department for various clinical services, McGill can afford to pay a salary to its head.

All online drug funded CME, like this, should also be eliminated.

 

AAMC Calls For Strict Limits on Industry Support of Medical Education.

 

Washington, D.C., June 19, 2008-The AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) today urged all medical schools and teaching hospitals to adopt policies that prohibit drug industry gifts and services to physicians, faculty, residents, and students, and to curtail the involvement of industry in continuing medical education activities. The recommendations were part of a new AAMC report, “Industry Funding of Medical Education,” unanimously approved by the association’s Executive Council. In adopting the report, the AAMC’s leadership urged all association members to implement policies and procedures, consistent with the report’s guidelines, by July 1, 2009.

The report was the result of a 14-month effort by an AAMC task force, established in 2006, to examine the benefits and pitfalls associated with industry funding of medical education, and to develop principles, recommendations, and guidelines to help medical schools and teaching hospitals better manage their relationships with industry. The panel was chaired by retired Merck Chairman and CEO Roy Vagelos, M.D., and the vice chair was William Danforth, M.D., former chancellor of Washington University. The task force membership included institutional leaders, faculty, residents, students, CEOs from the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device industries, ethicists, and public representatives.

“Interactions between industry and academic medicine are vital to public health,” said AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, M.D. “But they must be principled partnerships effectively managed to sustain public trust in both partners’ commitment to patient welfare and the improvement of health care. The recommendations outlined in this report provide essential guidance for how medical schools and teaching hospitals can achieve this important goal.”

Mounting scientific evidence indicates that gifts, favors, and other marketing activities, both explicit and implicit, prejudice independent judgment in unconscious ways. In order to minimize the likelihood of biased decisions by academic physicians, establish an influence-free culture for medical students, residents and other trainees, and optimize the benefits inherent in the principled relationships between medical education and industry, the report proposes that academic medical centers:

  • Establish and implement policies that prohibit the acceptance of any gifts from industry by physicians, faculty, students and residents on- or off-site
  • Eliminate the receipt of drug samples or manage their distribution via a centralized process that ensures timely patient access throughout the health care system
  • Restrict access by pharmaceutical representatives to individual physicians by confining visits to nonpatient areas and holding them by appointment only
  • Set up a central continuing medical education (CME) office to receive and coordinate the distribution of industry support for CME activities
  • Strongly discourage participation by faculty in industry-sponsored speakers’ bureaus
  • Prohibit physicians, residents, and students from allowing presentations of any kind to be ghostwritten by industry representatives.

While all medical schools and teaching hospitals do not yet have strong polices governing their interactions with the drug and device industries, many are working to develop them, and a number of academic medical centers have implemented such policies in the past few years, including University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine; Stanford University School of Medicine; University of California, Davis, School of Medicine; David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA; and Yale University School of Medicine.

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Drug Dealers Bribe Doctors to Prescribe Statins

Posted by Colin Rose on July 9, 2008

Here is a very important post from Dr. Catey Shanahan documenting direct bribes from drug dealers to clinics who can attract more doctors by paying them more as long as they pledge to get every patient’s LDL below 100. Without major dietary change, counseling for which takes a lot of unpaid time of the doctor, this can only be done by prescibing statins, already the most prescribed drugs in the world. When will the physician licensing bodies stop this corruption of the medical profession and forbid any financial connection of practicing doctors with any industry associated with medical practice?

Unlike Dr. Shanahan, I do blame the doctors. This sort of behavior is highly unprofessional. If no doctor went along with this highly unethical practice, contrary to the Hippocratic oath, it wouldn’t exist.

It seems insurance companies are so occupied with getting $zillions from drug dealers that they can’t be bothered to look at the data. Here are some from the ALLHAT-LLT study. In spite of a large reduction in LDL, bad blood cholesterol, there was no effect on mortality or morbidity in this group of very high risk people including diabetics, all of which the insurance company says should be give statins. Where a bar crosses the vertical line there is no significant effect in that sub-group.

And look at the baseline characteristics of the participants in ALLHAT-LLT: all overweight, 43% obese, 23% smoking, 35% diabetic. Is it not highly unethical to perform a drug study for lifestyle diseases in such a group with obviously atherogenic lifestyles BEFORE optimizing the lifestyles of all participants?

Legal Addictions

An ALLHAT-LLT type subject

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Many of the comments on the NYT and other articles on the new recommendations for pediatricians and family doctors to put children on brain-damaging statins are expressing outrange that drug companies are taking over the minds of doctors. Don’t blame doctors. We’re being threatened by insurance companies. If we don’t do exactly what drug companies want, we’ll be paid less. In some cases, some of us might loose our jobs. (OKay, we do deserve some blame for not standing up for ourselves!)

I went for a job interview in Portland and in a conversation with the medical director of a large group there, I was told that if I failed to get my patients LDL levels down to 100 “someone will sit down and talk with you.” This particular group was able to offer a better starting salary than average. I had assumed that the reason they could offer more was through efficiencies. During the interview, I learned there was more to it than that. They had special arrangements with drug companies called ‘incentive programs.’ The medical director told me with absolute glee “we keep asking them [meaning drug companies] for money and they keep giving it to us.” He sounded like a kid at Christmas!

This group’s policy is to get everyone’s LDL under 100, regardless of risk factors. Stratifying risk is “too complicated.” So they make it simple for their docs. How convenient for the drug companies. I suspect that because this organization has such an aggressive general policy, the drug companies reward them handsomely for taking such a progressive position. They can offer about $50,000 more per year than doctors working in their own, independent offices.

HMSA is Hawaii’s largest medical insurance company. They are paying me to prescribe statins to people who have had heart attacks. Next year, they will pay me to prescribe statins to every single one of my diabetic patients. If I don’t I may loose about $20,000 and my entire group will be penalized financially as well.

If any of this disturbs you, please write to John Berthiaume MD, HMSA Vice President/Medical Director. 818 Keeaumoku Street, Honolulu, HI 96814. Or, you can write to the medical director of your own insurance company and let them know what you think about your payments going into programs that force doctors to write bad prescriptions or loose money!

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