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Friday's letters: Sandwich won't sway this doctor

Drugmakers to face disclosure rules | Jan. 17

Sandwich won't sway this doctor

There are physicians, experts in their fields, who give talks on drugs to educate physicians on the benefits of the drugs. These talks occur at dinner meetings, funded by the pharmaceutical companies. Spouses of the attending physicians are not allowed to come. Trips to Vegas, skiing resorts, sporting events and concerts are now gone forever.

My staff and I are treated to a couple lunches a week, brought in by pharmaceutical reps, who get to promote their meds in a concentrated effort to get me to prescribe them because of their benefits. It's their job, similar to a political lobbyist.

After 35 years of general practice, and the hassles of managed care and government regulations, I'm outraged that anyone would think that I prescribe meds for patients based on sandwiches. Managed care dictates my prescribing habits more than the pharmaceutical companies. My patients have never brought it up to me. If my patients don't care, why should anyone else?

David Lubin, M.D., Tampa

Removing a conflict

Generally speaking, I dislike increased government rules and restrictions, but this time I completely agree that for too long patients have paid the freight for those physicians who prescribe on the basis of financial relationships.

If drugmakers pay doctors for giving lectures, consulting or doing legitimate research, well and good. When it comes to prescribing medicines, especially for common ailments, less expensive and generic older drugs suffice very well in the majority of instances.

There is a profound difference in price of a new and/or still-patented drug versus an older, respected generic; sometimes hundreds of dollars' difference, even on insurance co-pays. This high cost helps to offset manufacturers' promotional expenses.

The deliberate prescribing of meds for the purpose of financial relationships or to "pay back" favors does the patient consumer a great financial disservice. Kudos to the federal administration.

Anthony S. Comitos, Palm Harbor

Scott correct on tax burden | Jan. 16

You get what you pay for

Gov. Rick Scott's assertion that New York state's tax burden per citizen is twice as high as in Florida was judged "mostly true" by PolitiFact.

But here's what it translates to. Florida's public schools, the fourth-largest system out of 50 states and D.C., rank 37th in eighth-grade math, 42nd in eighth-grade reading, 34th in high school diplomas, and 36th on the best educated index. Across the board the state ranks in the 30s and 40s. Why? Per student instructional expenditures rank near the bottom. New York ranks near the top.

Up and down the line from education to economic output, from citizen services and environmental quality to cultural opportunities, New York's higher tax base pays big dividends. What's more, Tallahassee's culture of corruption and cronyism makes Albany's pols look like choirboys! You get what you pay for.

H. Martin Moore, Port Richey

Gaming the system at nation's expense Jan. 16, editorial

Government guesswork

This editorial echoes repeated assertions made by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., since 2007. According to Levin, the difference in how stock options are treated — as a business expense at the time of granting and as a deduction from the company's taxable income when exercised — is costing the government billions of dollars per year.

This is not true. The difference costs the Treasury no more than does any other tax deduction. Furthermore, the difference is an artificial, largely meaningless figure created by complying with current government regulations.

It is only at the insistence of accounting and government agencies such as the Financial Accounting Standards Board, the SEC and the IRS that options must be expensed when they are granted, at a time when no one knows what they are worth. Various formulas for estimating the value of an option produce, at best, rough estimates.

The only time when everyone knows the value of the option is when it is exercised. The difference between the option's strike price and the market price of the stock is then taxable income to the employee and a tax deduction for the corporation. If, when the option expires it turns out to be worthless, there is no tax effect.

A bill introduced in July 2011 by Levin and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, would limit the corporate tax deduction for stock option compensation to the amount of stock option expense shown on the corporation's income statement, a figure that, as mentioned above, is only a rough estimate. Stock option deductions would be made subject to the existing $1 million cap on corporate tax deductions for compensation paid to top executives of publicly held corporations. (This cap, by the way, has contributed greatly to the popularity of stock options.)

One has to wonder which corporate expense will be next to attract attention from Levin and Brown and be called excessive. Will it be research and development? Will every item on a corporate statement of income be subject to challenge by Congress and government agencies?

Orville B. Lefko, CFA, Clearwater

'Citizens United' threatens integrity of elections | Jan. 18, commentary

Corporate takeover

As a business owner, I have the right and obligation to make decisions affecting my company.

I should not have the right to use the shareholders' money to influence political decisions without their express consent. Corporate proxies should allow shareholders to vote against political donations that are in oppositions to the shareholders' views.

If Citizens United is taken to its logical conclusion, corporations should be "citizens" in all aspects of society. If a corporation is found to have killed someone by its actions or products, the CEO, or some other executive or board member should go to prison or be executed.

Jim Hunter, Lutz

Friday's letters: Sandwich won't sway this doctor 01/19/12 [Last modified: Thursday, January 19, 2012 4:46pm]
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