Patients believe that physicians will unquestionably act in their best interests, particularly when it comes to invasive and/or risky procedures. While this may be true of many physicians, there are others who may be more concerned with making a profit. A network of physician-owned medical supply companies have popped up across the country, started by a business owner and his business partner. They recruited physicians and surgeons to buy into the company, but also engaged in what might be considered, suspicious behavior by stating to them in recently leaked recordings that the physicians needed to keep their ownership a secret. The companies based their profits on physicians using the products, such as spinal screws; this idea, of course, is more profitable if the products are used often. One doctor who performed spinal surgery on a woman who ultimately died from complications, is under fire for performing the surgery without reason. The screws manufactured by the company cost $100 to make and $1000 to buy; a ten-fold profit margin. By simply increasing the number of surgeries, and the number of screws used, the physicians partaking in this practice could see a huge windfall. These surgeries involved any number of joints, including spine, knee and hip joints.
Federal prosecutors are now filing suit against the physician-owned companies, and 35 physicians across the United States are involved. The allegations are that the physicians performed risky surgeries that were not necessary, and in some cases, resulted in the death of the patients. According to the news article the defendants, decline to comment other than to say the allegations are untrue. The recordings may prove problematic, although at this point nothing has been proven in a court of law.
What patients need to know is that medicine is a business as well as a profession.