Find out if your doctor is getting money from Big Pharma

Thanks to Beyond Meds’ 9/8/11 post on the updated ProPublica database, I was able to check all the doctors I’ve seen over the past five years to see if they’ve received money from pharmaceutical companies. The ProPublica database has information from 12 companies about $760 million in payments over the period 2009 to 2nd quarter 2011.

Two of my doctors were in the database. The insomnia specialist received $185,000 in one year from Pfizer for research and the GI surgeon received $133,000 in speaking fees over two years, also from Pfizer.

I’m not sure a GI surgeon who DOESN’T foist drugs on you after you’ve had your bowels sliced open is someone I’d want to meet. As for Dr. Insomnia, he did say he had no further ideas for me but to keep trying different medications. (His assistant did alert me to the new, smaller light therapy gadgets I hadn’t known about.) But he also spoke with me for a total of three hours, asked me a ton of questions, listened carefully to everything I said, and determined that I’d already tried and ruled out the usual approaches to insomnia.

I explained early on that I was also trying a nutritional therapy approach and he did not discourage or discount it, which in my experience is rare among doctors. I also said I wasn’t really into meds and he was sympathetic. He came very highly recommended by my regular doctor who described him as “a little intense, but it’s because he cares,” and I agreed with her impression.

In sum, I was very appreciative of the time he took with me, but once again frustrated by the narrow range of solutions he could offer and his lack of knowledge about basic effects of nutrition on sleep patterns, which you’d think would be a requirement in a sleep expert.

In looking at this database and reflecting on my experiences I’ve realized that this reliance on prescription drugs has been so all-encompassing that I almost stopped registering it over the past 12 years. I’d almost forgotten that it was the main reason I gave up on conventional doctors as I sought to fix my remaining complaints.

The main reasons I continue to occasionally visit conventional doctors (in addition to the occasional alterna-doc) are because my insurance covers regular checkups; a strange desire to map the extent of their uselessness in treating chronic health mysteries; curiosity about the effect of the new healthcare changes being talked about; and, quite frankly, because most people will not give your complaints about your health issues and the health care system any credence if you haven’t gone to the kinds of doctors they’re familiar with.
Illustration by MRhea

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