Recently, CBS News posted an investigative report about a TELEMARKETING SCAM. Yes, yelling capital letters on the word “Telemarketing.” The original story can be found here, but here’s the breakdown. A telemarketing company has been calling people over the phone and asking whether they are in pain and whether they think this requires medications or not. If the person answers in the affirmative the company then asks if they can speak to their doctor. Most of us would say , “Absolutely not. I’ll speak to my physician at my next appointment,” but this is not the case with everyone. After obtaining personal information the telemarketing company then contacts the person’s physician (please notice I am using the word “person” NOT “patient”) and obtains an order for compounded pain medication without the knowledge of the person. Weeks later the person receives compounded pain medication that they didn’t ask for, which is billed to their insurance company for an exorbitant amount of money (about $18,000 in the one example). The middle man in all of this is a compounding pharmacy in Utah who made the compound and billed the insurance company without having a relationship with the people they were “treating.” That is why these people are not patients. They did not have a relationship with the people, but were trying to treat them.
Compounding pharmacies have come under quite a bit of scrutiny by the media and the FDA in recent years. Between manufacturing companies posing as compounding pharmacies selling contaminated pharmaceuticals, the FDA looking out for Big Pharma by slandering good companies with strong science behind them, and now this, there is a lot of bad media about compounding. We, however, know and believe that compounding is safe, effective, and important to patient care. The Express Scripts CEO’s statement on the efficacy of topical pain medications is ignorant and false. There are topical pain medications that were used in compounding that have now gone to market because of there efficacy (Voltaren gel anyone?). They are safe, effective, and don’t cause the psychological and mental side effects that oral medications can. This, however, does not mean that topical medications are for everyone, WHICH IS WHY A PATIENT, PHYSICIAN, PHARMACIST RELATIONSHIP IS SO IMPORTANT (I’m a little riled up. Can you tell?). The funny thing about all of this is that my mother and I BOTH received phone calls from the telemarketing company in this story and we both told the company to sod off because if we had problems we would speak to our physicians ourselves. If you want your health information to be private and between you and your health care team then they are the only ones you should be talking to. We, as ethical health care professionals, are not only obligated, but thoroughly determined, to making your health and privacy our number one priority. The pharmacists at Mixtures are not the only ones with these standards. Here is the reply to the CBS report by the International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists:
“CBS News has exposed a practice that is in many cases both illegal and unethical: providing medication to an individual in the absence of a relationship with that patient and the patient’s physician. Pharmacists are responsible and obligated to work closely with prescribers and the patients they treat to assure that the right medication is being provided to meet that individual’s health care needs. The violation of that sacred relationship by a marketing firm – especially one that engages in questionable telemarketing practices such as the one identified in this story – is reprehensible and cannot be condoned.
Patients have both a right and a responsibility to have complete information about their medications. That includes not only what the medication is for, how it is supposed to be used, and what questions to ask of their physician and their pharmacist, but also the cost of the medication to both themselves and their employer or insurer. The submission of a bill to any payor – either public or private – must be done in full compliance with the contractual terms between the pharmacy, the patient, and the payor.
Legitimately prescribed and dispensed compounded pain creams and gels bring tremendous relief to those suffering from bone and joint pain. They have the added – and very significant – benefit of being non-addictive. This not only helps patients to enjoy normal activities of daily living, it spares them the destruction of drug addiction. These medications prevent millions of dollars in abused and diverted oral pain medications, and access to pain creams and gels must be maintained. The decision to use a compounded pain cream should only be made based upon a patient’s direct examination by, and consultation with, their physician.
IACP believes public and private health care payers should aggressively address health care fraud, including taking action against any health care provider that has allegedly broken the law. If a provider has misrepresented what they have dispensed or has not followed law or regulation, they should be held fully accountable.”
We heavily support this statement by IACP and believe the telemarketing company AND the compounding pharmacy should be investigated and prosecuted for their crimes. And shunned by the pharmacy community for their violation of the sacred relationship between patients, physicians, and pharmacists (I love a good shunning). Please, continue to support compounding as we support you AND if this makes you as irate as this makes all of us please feel free to comment on the CBS site. If you would like to receive updates on compounding and join the fight for unbiased information and compounding rights please read and sign up for updates at http://www.protectmycompounds.com/
I’m not promising this will be my last protest blog, but I promise for my next blog to be less politics related and more healthcare related.
Yours in Health,
Heather, Lori, and the rest of the Mixtures Pharmacy Healthcare Team