By Richard Gould
HICKORY, N.C. – What would you do for $10,000?
What would your doctor do for $100,000?
Questions like this are swirling through America’s medical community. Patients wonder if cash, junkets and gifts are motivating their doctors when it comes time to write a prescription.
Thanks to the Sunshine Act you can find out exactly how many payments your doctor accepted, the total dollar amount, which companies made them and what the companies said the payments were for.
The report for 2013 is out – and Hickory doctors took big money from medical manufacturers that year. The amount of money Hickory doctors accepted, however, is drastically lower than many cities across America, a study shows.
Psychiatrist Dr. James T. Barker topped the list with $109,473.76. Second place went to Anesthesiologist Dr. Michelle Marie Brown, who took in $45,485.36. Spinal surgeon Dr. Alfred Geissele came in at No. 3 with $11,672.32
The bulk of Barker’s money ($72,753.43) came from Otsuka America Pharmaceutical Inc. of Maryland. The company was paying Barker for his input on Abilify Maintena, an anti-psychotic you inject once a month to treat schizophrenia.
The majority of Brown’s payouts ($43,360) came from Depomed Inc., of California. Sometimes the money was designated “honoraria” or “consulting.” Often it was for “food and beverage,” but it always had something to do with Gralise and Zipsor. Gralise is an anti-seizure drug used to treat the pain associated with shingles. Zipsor is typically used to treat the swelling associated with arthritis.
Barker and Brown ignored the Hickory Daily Record’s in-person, written and emailed requests to discuss their payouts. Neither doctor was willing to explain what the money was for and what impact that kind of bonus income has on their choices when treating patients.
But one man, Geissele, of Carolina Orthopaedic Specialists, was willing to talk.