1. Archive


USF doc's ties to pharma: bad karma? - Jan. 27

Direct advertising to physicians by the pharmaceutical industry is a systematic effort to turn the medical profession into the most effective sales force ever imagined. More than in any other relationship between a consumer and a producer, "trust" - as opposed to a sales contract - is absolutely crucial where it involves physician services. Individually and as a society, we place unparalleled trust in our physicians' ability and unselfishness to represent our interests in matters of health and medicine. From the pharmaceutical industry's perspective, can you imagine a more effective sales force for its products than one that is almost never questioned by the end user? It is in the long-term interest of the medical profession to avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived, that are damaging to that trust.

Etienne Pracht, Lithia

Trust judgment of your physician

We write as patients of Dr. Brownlee to counter the negative impressions that your article may convey to those who are not his patients. While we know very well that drug companies have abused and do abuse their access to physicians in order to promote their overpriced and sometimes poorly tested products, Dr. Brownlee is not part of the problem.

Dr. Brownlee's prescriptions always direct the pharmacist to supply the generic drug. Only once, when a generic was simply not working for my wife, did he prescribe a brand-name drug. An honest and prudent practitioner can avoid the temptations of the drug companies without the need for absolute prohibitions.

James H. Harris and Beti M. Blank, Tampa

Life of a doctor is a complicated one

Worse than the accusations against doctors who speak for Big Pharma are the criticisms we get for what is perceived as biased prescription writing based on the lunch, box of tissues, soap dispenser, antibacterial gel or pocketful of pens we received at the last pharmaceutical rep's visit. I thought doctors were thought to be one of the most highly respected groups of professionals, but you wouldn't think so. Granted, the days of free tickets and trips are gone, but the dinners with respected speakers such as Dr. Brownlee are quite informative about medications, especially since Dr. Brownlee is out there actually treating the patients. It's too bad that Ms. Hundley was unable to go to the dinner; I'm sure she would have been impressed with Dr. Brownlee's knowledge and speaking ability. I would bet he's one of the most-attended speakers "on the circuit."

I invite Ms. Hundley to visit my office and see what hassles we have to put up with from insurance companies, third-party payors who deny filling the prescriptions we write and the occasional patient who thinks he knows more about medicine than we do. We hardly have time, with the 15 insurance plans we might accept, which then have different plans within each, necessitating different requirements for co-pays and referrals, along with the 50 to 60 prescription formularies we're expected to know and follow, to remember which reps promoted which drug with what trinket. And if they didn't, I wouldn't be able to give away hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars worth of free samples daily to patients. And then after a long day of work, if I want to relax over dinner and a few drinks with colleagues and increase my knowledge, I'm not allowed to bring my spouse or significant other, or a newspaper columnist. Too bad.

Dr. David Lubin,Tampa

Doctor isn't a shill for companies

Dr. Brownlee has been my primary-care physician for more than three years. During that time, I have come to a realization that he is about medicine and not money like so many other doctors I have gone to in the past. He does not shill for Big Pharma or the insurance companies. He is candid about the problems with America's health care. Many times he has given me coupons for over-the-counter alternatives to high-cost prescription drugs.

Ken Fiallos, Seffner

Doctor cares about his patients

What was not mentioned in that scathing article was the wonderful medical care Dr. Brownlee gives his patients. The fact is that he will call a patient at night to give test results so that they don't have to worry overnight and in an emergency he'll always squeeze you into his busy schedule.

My husband and I owe our lives to this man, as I'm sure many of his patients do. That was the story that should have been written.

Valerie Kelleher, Wesley Chapel

Tax vote opens gate to upscale hideaway, column - Feb. 1

Why pay taxes in two states?

A respected economist says recent tax vote will attract the well-off and divert the less fortunate elsewhere? With only a few economics courses, my common sense says the ideal Florida home of the future is a well-constructed and anchored trailer costing little more than the homestead exemption. Why pay taxes, insurance and maintenance on homes in two states, both of which are happy to provide tax loopholes for all but the middle-income group?

Byron Evans, Spring Hill

About the WellCare HMO

Call for help met with runaround

I have just spent two hours trying to find out why my husband's flu shot refund has not come. He received his shot Nov. 19 and was notified Nov. 28 that payment was approved. We waited the suggested six weeks before contacting WellCare to see when the check would be sent. "Two more weeks" was the answer. Since then I have called four more times, each time getting another two weeks, then four weeks, and then today I was told six months. I then tried to contact someone in the corporate office. Four times the operator sent my call to customer service. No one at the corporate office will take my call. I filed a grievance through the customer service system early today, but I have no doubt it will be handled just like my calls. I have never encountered such blatant disregard for customers in my entire life.

Betty Andersen, New Port Richey

Funds drying up in the idea war - Jan. 27

Keep our edge on technology

The old technological monopolies our country has enjoyed are being undermined by competition, which is unavoidable. But the U.S. high-tech industry is coming unglued relative to lack of innovation and design, coupled with lackadaisical approaches and naivete in pursuing new and advanced systems. Lack of federal grants and subsequent financing has much to do with the movement of money to other priorities.

Banks could finance new companies with biotech startups that would promote new research labs. Technological superiority doesn't have to be a lost heritage in America. Everything is possible if wise leaders could come up with progressive policy prescriptions that have broad relevance and foster adequate venture capital.

Robert B. Fleming, St. Petersburg

Grocer stew thickens - Feb. 1

Aldi has found at least one shopper

I definitely like the taste of this delicious story. Being that I'm a "health-food junkie," my diet consists largely of fresh produce. And judging by the photograph of this Illinois Aldi discount store, I think I'd enjoy their produce department. I'm looking forward to the arrival of the new Aldi stores, especially the one opening up on Missouri Avenue and South Rosery Road in Largo. Since food prices have gone sky high, it will be pleasure to get some discounted prices on good-quality items. And, it may even provide a source to help lower some the prices in our local grocery stores as well. After all, competition is the name of the game.

JoAnn Lee Frank, Clearwater

Fraud through appraisal Jan. 24

Real estate agent was not involved

I am a little upset that no comment or disclaimer was made in the article about mortgage/appraisal fraud that I and my company, Century 21 Top Sales, had no involvement in the previous sale of the property on 52nd Avenue NE. Of the three homes in the article, my listing was the only one with the real estate sign clearly visible. I was not contacted for comment or input. I realize that all info printed is public record that anyone can access. But without disclaimer the casual reader will see the headline "fraud" and see the photo with our company info and presume that we are somehow involved.

Bruce Feldman, Seminole