I remember listening as the doctor testified about his trips to Las Vegas. That’s where the medical device company took him to “discuss” its product. After these trips to Las Vegas, the doctor returned home and began implanting the product into countless Alabama patients.
At the time, I was surprised. Shocked. But, that was also the first time I had deposed an implanting doctor in one of these cases. In the years since, I have seen far too many instances of drug and device companies trying to tempt physicians into prescribing or implanting certain products.
In some cases, the physician may not even be fully trained in the potential issues of the drug or product at issue. I think this is an issue with transvaginal mesh implants. These products were heavily marketed to local physicians and regularly implanted in women. Yet, the potential problems from mesh implants can be tremendous. When problems occur, the same implanting physicians are often unable to help. I recently deposed a surgeon at a major research hospital who has tried to help one of my clients suffering from implanted mesh. Here is what that specialist said:
But the doctors who put the kits in, do they sometimes lack the experience in treating the problems that may result from it?
A. Very frequently that’s the situation that we’ve encountered.
She then testified how many of these injured women are passed around by local doctors until finally being referred to an experienced specialist. It’s a problem when medical device companies are mass marketing their bad products to doctors who should not be implanting them.
If you want a better picture of the huge payments drug companies make to physicians, ProPublica has a web page with real names and real numbers. The ProPublica website even lists payments by state. Want to see the Alabama doctors who collected over a million dollars in drug company money? Want to see what drugs get the most dollar action? It’s all listed. For example, two of the most lucrative drugs for physician payments are Invokana and Xarelto. I mention those because I have written numerous articles discussing safety and injury issues associated with both of them.
Why am I discussing pharamceutical payments (kickbacks) to physicians now? The U.S. Justice Department has been investigating claims that the drugmaker Insys Therapeutics paid doctors kickbacks to prescribe its very powerful (and dangerous) opioid medication. To settle kickback claims with the government, Insys agreed to pay $150 Million. What drug was the company promoting through its kickback scheme? Insys was promoting its drug Subsys which contains fentanyl (an opioid 100 times stronger than morphine). Fentanyl is a dangerous and deadly substance.
The companies manufacturing opioid drugs for sale in this country worked overtime to market their products. The result of that marketing — Too much needless death and damage to count. A study published in JAMA Network Open indicates opioid abuse in the U.S. currently accounts for 20 percent of deaths among young adults. That’s an increase from just 4 percent in 2001.
Are the medications we take safe? Are the medical devices we use safe? They should be. But, too often they are not. As patients, we assume our doctors are reviewing the medical information with our best interest at heart. The overwhelming majority of doctors do just that. In most bad drug cases, the company has deceived the doctor by not disclosing the risks, problems or bad test results. From handling personal injury cases over the last two decades, I firmly believe most doctors care deeply about their patients. Like every other profession, a small few create most of the issues.
Drug and device companies tempt those few doctors with kickbacks to market their products regardless of true patient need. Patients deserve better.
From our office in Huntsville, the Blackwell Law Firm represents clients with serious personal injury cases across Alabama. Many of these cases involve Alabama car accidents, workplace accidents, or injuries from defective products.