Friday, December 15, 2017
Editorials

Disclosure on drug company freebies

Patients need to know if their doctor receives all-expense-paid trips from a drug company whose products he enthusiastically prescribes. It is relevant to evaluating whether a doctor is practicing ethical medicine or using a prescription pad to write his way to another ritzy convention. While there has been no routine way to ferret out this conflict of interest, that's about to change. A rule being finalized by the Obama administration would require drug companies and medical device makers to disclose all gifts or payments made to doctors. The new consumer protection is yet another benefit of the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama's signature health care reform law, and will soon give patients a clearer picture of how their doctors do business.

It is an open secret that drug and medical device makers are awfully generous to doctors and medical staff in efforts to generate higher sales. Free trips to luxury resorts, excessive payments for lectures, research, advice and "consulting," expensive restaurant meals, and treating an entire office to lunch are not unusual. Those receiving the benefits and those doling them out defend the practice as a collaboration that leads to medical innovation, and certainly that is true in some cases. But this cozy relationship is also rife with abuse.

According to an analysis by the New York Times, about 1 in 4 doctors take cash payments from drug or device makers, and nearly 2 out of 3 take free food for themselves and their staff. Those who do take money, according to the findings, are more willing to prescribe drugs in unapproved and potentially risky ways. That culture can also lead to excess prescribing of expensive brand-name drugs over cheaper alternatives, and to overlooking a product's drawbacks.

The new standards will require companies that have a product covered by Medicare or Medicaid to disclose financial ties to doctors. Every financial expenditure has to be opened to the public, from regular payments to doctors to the delivery of doughnuts and coffee to a medical office. That information will be posted on a publicly accessible website by the federal government. Patients will be able to learn whether their doctor might have a conflict of interest when recommending a certain medication or medical device, and the public scrutiny will translate into doctors being more cautious about receiving gifts.

The idea was a bipartisan one, pushed by Sens. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Herb Kohl, D-Wis. It landed in the 2010 health reform law, joining a long list of consumer protections that the law has put in place, such as requiring health insurers to offer coverage for young people until they turn 26 and requiring health insurers to spend at least 80 percent of each premium dollar on health care.

Whether the disclosure rules will result in cost savings remains to be seen. But what is certain is that the move will give patients the information to make more responsible choices, and it will bring new accountability to doctors whose medical judgment may be clouded by drug company largesse.

Comments
Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

For once, it would be nice to see Sen. Marco Rubio stand up as the independent leader he aspires to become. For once, the Florida Republican should hold his position rather than bow to pragmatic politics. Rubio can stick with his threat Thursday to v...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

Josephine "Joey" Gay should have celebrated her 12th birthday this week. She should have been surrounded by friends and family in a place festooned with purple, her favorite color.Chase Kowalski should have been working toward a Boy Scout merit badge...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Published: 12/12/17

Another voice: Privacy in the internet age

How much information about you is on your cellphone? Likely the most intimate details of your life: photographs, internet searches, text and email conversations with friends and colleagues. And though you might not know it, your phone is constantly c...
Published: 12/10/17
Updated: 12/11/17
Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Confronted with documentation of sanctioned brutality and sexual abuse in Florida’s juvenile detention centers, the reaction from Gov. Rick Scott’s administration was defensive and obtuse. So it’s welcome news that Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/11/17

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over state’s rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week won’t make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, it’s obvious that Jeff Vinik’s plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17