Trust Me, I’m a Colleague by Pat Conrad MD

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Do you ever watch the odd-hours infomercials featuring guys or gals calling themselves “doctor”, and then endorsing all manner of miracle cure-it-alls?  I enjoy immensely the various ads for vitamins, shakes, copper bracelets, skin toners, and of course, the plethora of ads for special proprietary, “All Natural!” blends that “enhance that certain special part of the male anatomy”, which hilariously, they never, ever name.

It got me to wondering what others have said about this brave industry, and daydreaming whether I could ever be a paid physician endorser for my favorite beer … anyway, I found an interesting AMA News piece from 2004 titled “Doctors who tout iffy cures will face the critical eye of the FTC.”  Then Pres.-elect Ed Hill said:  “There is an ethical duty in recommending a product that is being used to treat a medical condition.”  Uh-huh.

Then FTC Commissioner Tom Leary said:  “Doctors still have a high level of esteem in the United States.”  He added that doctors should not hold themselves out as experts in areas in which they are not knowledgeable.  He then offered tips for doctors to avoid mal-endorsements:

  • “Get scientific proof.”  Doctors should do their own evaluations prior to making an endorsement “to ensure that a product holds up to the claims the manufacturer [is] making.”
  • “Do a gut test.  Doctors should be wary of situations in which their own financial gain trumps the interests of the people using the product.”
  • “Give full disclosure.”

Those seem like sensible tips.  What if they were applied to more than just infomercials?  Doctors have been endorsing products i.e. selling unproven ideas to policy makers and voters/patients for years now.  Various physicians paid by government, Big Insurance, Big Pharma, the IT industry, or the Ivory Tower have over the past few years endorsed HIPPAA, Medicare Part D, “medical homes”, arbitrary quality standards and pay-for-performance, ACO’s, EHR’s, meaningful use, ICD-10, and of course the latest statin, lipid, and salt guidelines.  When the latest president wanted to sell his health care masterpiece, the White House famously had boxes of fresh white coats for the degreed props to wear for the press conference.  Were they held to any standard other than emotional?  Which CMS physician drones or lobby doc or academic began their sub-committee testimony with “I’m being paid by the taxpayer to recommend these ideas which won’t affect me in the least, because I don’t see patients to pay my mortgage.”?

Actual physicians certainly are feeling an effect in a certain special part of the anatomy, courtesy of their colleagues, but it’s not gender specific and not caused by any late night pill.  We might not want to be too hard on the midnight snake-oil salesmen when the real pros are selling their bullshit in the sunshine.

Douglas Farrago MD

Douglas Farrago MD is a full-time practicing family doc in Forest, Va. He started Forest Direct Primary Care where he takes no insurance and bills patients a monthly fee. He is board certified in the specialty of Family Practice. He is the inventor of a product called the Knee Saver which is currently in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Knee Saver and its knock-offs are worn by many major league baseball catchers. He is also the inventor of the CryoHelmet used by athletes for head injuries as well as migraine sufferers. Dr. Farrago is the author of four books, two of which are the top two most popular DPC books. From 2001 – 2011, Dr. Farrago was the editor and creator of the Placebo Journal which ran for 10 full years. Described as the Mad Magazine for doctors, he and the Placebo Journal were featured in the Washington Post, US News and World Report, the AP, and the NY Times. Dr. Farrago is also the editor of the blog Authentic Medicine which was born out of concern about where the direction of healthcare is heading and the belief that the wrong people are in charge. This blog has been going daily for more than 15 years Article about Dr. Farrago in Doximity Email Dr. Farrago – [email protected] 

  2 comments for “Trust Me, I’m a Colleague by Pat Conrad MD

  1. Sylvia Mustonen DO
    January 23, 2014 at 10:26 am

    I certainly hope this will apply to Dr. Oz, huckster -meister and star of every magazine in the grocery store check out lane.

    How can he endorse any of those products with a straight face? I challenge him to show / prove / demonstrate that he gets absolutely nothing of value in tangible or intangible gifts / compensation/ from any of those companies he spouts about. Too bad the sunshine law does not apply to him and his TV work, but maybe this will be enough pressure to shut down his nonsense.

  2. Stella Fitzgibbons MD
    January 23, 2014 at 8:38 am

    Not all of these “doctors” ever set foot in a med school. There are some out there with “ND” after their names, and of course chiropractors.

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