Saturday, April 21, 2018
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: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

A bipartisan Senate bill clarifying that only the attorney general or a high-ranking designee could remove a special prosecutor would send an important message amid President Donald Trump’s attacks on the investigation into Russia’s inter...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18