Monday, October 09, 2006

What's good for the quack is not good for the doctor

Recently the Australian newspaper reported, in scandalized tones, that a doctor practising nutritional medicine, had been on-selling Vit E to patients at a healthy profit ($10,000 of Vit E sold for a total of $100,000).

Around my own bridle paths, I noticed response from doctors varied: awe (he got away with it?), sympathy (driven to it - underpaid), disdain (unprofessional practice), disgust (snake-oil salesman) and envy (why didn't I think of that?)
What the doctor did isn't actually illegal, but it doesn't look nice. Victoria's medical practitioners' board called it unprofessional conduct: "the doctor should not gain financial advantage by selling alternative therapeutic substances directly to patients." As for prescription medicines - these can't be sold by the doctor. To avoid conflict of interest, the doctor may prescribe but a pharmacist provides.

Now, where is the outrage re other "health professionals"? Where are headlines on naturopaths, herbalists and homeopaths who order with one hand and vend with the other? What windfalls are amazing nutrients, miracle herbs and magic waters generating?

Critics complain doctors receive inducements to promote pharmaceuticals, but these are of paltry value due to self-regulation by Medicines Australia. Viagra's self-raising calculator is cute, but a $10 gift ceiling usually makes for a marginally decent biro or mildly embarrassing brolly.

On the other hand, Big Altie's dispensers are enjoying their hayday. I heard a back-of-the-stables rumour of substantial inducements offered to a GP (afflicted with an altie-friendly diploma) to endorse and sell neuraceutical products. He refused.

The worry about doctors receiving kickbacks to sell alternative medicines has led to an ACCC investigation, "with a view to the ACCC recommending a code of conduct similar to that applying to pharmaceuticals". This would block bribes to doctors - now how about to so-called "health professionals"?

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