A used car lot on every street corner

Imagine that, every day, a parade of used-car salesmen knock on your front door to sell you a special "deal". Day in, day out they knock, expecting you to hear about their offers openly.

Is there any doubt about their intentions or motives? Of course not. They're just trying to profit from selling you a car.

That's how it is in a medical office nowadays. Drug representatives, 5, 6, or more each and every day, promoting drugs. Except that the profits from drugs are far greater than a used automobile, and there's a third party involved in the transaction: you.

Today, a pushy representative came to my office. My staff and I tried to tell him that I was not interested in speaking to him. But he proved such a nuisance that I finally came out to tell him that I objected to the idea of drug reps just hanging around trying to hawk their wares.

He blurted, "Doctor, do you have patients with angina? Our new drug, ranolazine, is perfect. Forget about nitroglycerin, beta blockers, and all that. Here's the latest study proving it's better." He tried to shove a reprint of the study at me.

Getting to the bottom line, I asked, "What does it cost the patient?"

"Well, the co-pay is between $40 and $60. We're not yet well covered by insurance, so it'll cost patients around $200 a month."

Need I say more? Here's a drug that does little more than help relieve anginal chest pains. It doesn't reverse coronary plaque. It won't avoid heart attack, death, or procedures. It just modestly cuts back on the frequency of chest pain. And all for the cost of a single heart scan--a heart scan that could have prevented the entire cascade of symptoms/procedures/medication/hospitalization etc.

Hospitals, drug companies, medical device manufacturers. They're all businesses that thrive on your doctor's failure to detect and control your coronary plaque. Sometimes, even your doctor is part of this conspiracy to squeeze dollars out of human disease. Don't fall for it.