Physician Compensation

I always enjoy reading Gruntdoc’s posts.  This one is essentially a link to an article by a physician that was in the USA Today, but I thought it was at least worth bringing to everyone’s attention. 

What we’re paying physicians doesn’t drive up the cost of healthcare.  As noted in the article, doctors only constitute 10% of overall healthcare spending in the US.  Most physicians are paid relatively modestly when you consider the lengths they’ve gone to in order to be a physician, the risks they incur on a daily basis and the pressure they feel in being responsible for so many other lives.  Out of the approximate total of 800,000 physicians in the US, there are about 100,000 internists, 80,000 FPs and 70,000 pediatricians who almost all make under $200,000 per year.  I know a lot of pharmaceutical reps who make more than that working a couple of hours a day delivering donuts and mouse pads. 

Speaking of the root of the problem, who’s with me on cutting direct-to-consumer (dtc) advertising by big pharmaceutical companies?  I sure love it when I’m watching TV with my son and 15 viagra commercials come on talking about erections lasting longer than 4 hours.  “Dad, what is an erection?” 

I looked for a stat on how much big pharma spends on dtc advertising and the most recent figures I found were $2.5 BILLION and $2.8 BILLION from 2000 and 2002, respectively!!!  In 1991, drug companies spent just $55 million on advertising.  What’s shocking is that those same studies indicated that for every dollar they spend on dtc, they make another $2.20 in sales, which translates to another $2.20 in COST to you and I. 

I found an article on the NEJM that said “Total spending on pharmaceutical promotion grew from $11.4 billion in 1996 to $29.9 billion in 2005.  That tab is being picked up by all of us.  We’re spending $2.5 trillion on healthcare in the US and they are spending $30 billion (12%) promoting drugs?  I get that it is expensive to do all the R&D and testing and whatnot and I’m a capitalist at heart… I want them to make some money for what they are doing.  If we could allow the doctors to pick the meds instead of the patient, perhaps we could lower the cost of meds, decrease people’s perception that they need to be medicated and put a little extra money in the pocket of healthcare consumers. 

So, to recap, we pay the 800,000 doctors in the US who provide ALL care 10% of total spending and pharmaceutical companies spend the equivalent of 12% to promote drugs.  For every dollar they spend, they make $2.20, which means that $66 BILLION dollars of our total expenditures are a result of their promotional and dtc spending, which is 26.4% of total healthcare spending, which is totally unnecessary. 

Leave the doctors alone, they’ve got enough to worry about. 

Jim

**Disclaimer- this post was very half-heartedly researched and probably includes factual errors and information that I’ve taken out of context, but you get my drift don’t you?

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