We used to make a preparation for people with multiple sclerosis. It was a simple mixture in a cream. It was applied once or twice daily and covered with a patch. Many people reported that it helped relieve their symptoms. The preparation was the brain child of a nurse with MS who helped spread the word about the preparation, for a fee. Instead of sharing her discovery with everyone she wound the process in red tape and licenses – and charged each compounder a large fee for making it and selling it.
Not everyone had great success with the compound. Some people were happy in the beginning, but sensed it wasn’t so great after just a few months. Experienced compounders were criticized for making it incorrectly and were forced to bow to the will of people who didn’t share their experience and expertise.
Because of the questionable success rate, the required high fees, and the open ridicule, some of us found we were making less and less. We once served over 75 people every month and I was even asked to present our service at a national convention of compounders.
We no longer make the preparation today. Our customers are not worse off.
This is not the main reason for this post. It’s something else, more egregious than what I described above. Today, I’m relaying an experience that will be forever burned into my brain. I was invited to accompany a MS patient to a special meeting on the condition. Doctors were presenting the most recent findings about MS, as well as their experiences with the new drugs hitting the market. There were over 700 people in attendance, mostly MS sufferers.
As is common, attendees were allowed to pose questions to the panel of speakers. One woman rose to ask about the preparation I mentioned above. I knew the doctor on stage, a noted neurologist from one of the large teaching hospitals in the Chicago area. The doctor took the question and with a quizzical look on his face responded by claiming he wasn’t familiar with the compound. The friend who invited me to the meeting grabbed my arm to keep me from jumping up and commenting.
Why would he stop me?
It so happens that doctors who wanted to prescribe the compounded cream and patch were initially asked to sign a kind of release document to receive information. Not only had this doctor signed for the material – from my pharmacy – he had been prescribing it. He had also authorized a refill for one of his patients that very week. Yet, he stood in front of a room full of people and lied about not knowing about it.
His professional fee was paid by a drug company who was sponsoring the event and he more than likely thought it was better to “lie a little” instead of telling his sponsors that he had been dabbling in a compounded preparation that couldn’t be patented by his drug industry friends.
I was stunned.
My friend kindly told me that this kind of thing happens often. Doctors lie – just like all humans. The damnable part is that their lies hurt people – and maybe even kill a few. Lying to save face in front of the people who pay your fees is clearly acceptable, at least to this particular doctor.
It is unlikely that this doctor is the only medical doctor to have ever sunk so low.