Is Your Doctor’s Business Interfering With Your Treatment?

Ed Tobias avatar

by Ed Tobias |

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paying, MS medications


One of my favorite movie lines appears in “Jerry Maguire.” Sports-agent Maguire is trying to convince one of his football-player clients to stay with him and the client keeps insisting: “Show me the money.” I got to thinking of that line the other evening, while reading a Facebook post from an MS patient. After being examined by her neurologist, she was told that, based upon records from other doctors, the neuro thinks her MS is progressing. Then, writes the patient:

“…the doctor left it up to me if I wanted to stay on aubagio or switch to tysabri. But she never even laid a finger on me!!! Then tried to get me to buy her magnesium and vit b supplements, which costs a fortune. I graciously declined them. Said will do another MRI and if more lesions to think about the tysabri. But is it too much to ask for an actual exam.”

No exam, but pushing supplements? What kind of medicine is this?

A few years ago. Consumer Reports magazine published an article about the practice of doctors recommending supplements. It quoted a 2010 poll by Nutrition Business Journal — a trade publication — which found that of the “600 medical doctors, naturopathic physicians, chiropractors, nutritionists and other practitioners surveyed … 76 percent sell supplements in the office.”  

The American Medical Association, writing way back in 1999 in its Journal of Ethics, cautioned against this practice:

“In-office sale of health-related products by physicians presents a financial conflict of interest, risks placing undue pressure on the patient, and threatens to erode patient trust and undermine the primary obligation of physicians to serve the interests of their patients before their own.”

The guidelines continue:

“Physicians must disclose fully the nature of their financial arrangement with a manufacturer or supplier to sell health-related products.”

So what was happening with this doctor? Show me the money?

A day or two later, on another FB page, an MS patient wrote about trying to decide whether to have another MRI. Her doctor, she said, asked her to decide if she wanted one, but didn’t offer much guidance of his own. This patient wrote:

“…he said he was all for it!! Of course they are, line there (sic) pockets some, but more so the corp running all medical in this valley!!! Except the few brave docs who won’t go under the umbrella there (sic) created. My doc is one of them, but only one MRI in the valley!!”

She indicated that she thought the MRI was owned by this group of doctors, or that the docs were receiving some sort of kickback for their referrals.

Show me the money?

The doctor who wrote that Consumer Reports article five years ago concluded: “Several patients have told me recently that they, too, have felt compelled to buy products from various physicians. What should you do if a health-care practitioner tries to push a supplement, or any other product, on you during your office visit? Find another doctor.”

I agree. Don’t show him your money.


(You’re invited to see other columns on my personal blog:

Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Wayne avatar


Check to see if your doctor is getting paid by drug companies at Propublica's dollarsfordocs database. My neurologist was receiving $250,000 a year in drug company payments when I checked. Legal? Yes. Ethical? Maybe not.

Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

That's a very interesting web site, Wayne. The web site allows you to drill down from that total, to see which drug companies have paid the doctor how much between the summer of 2013 and the end of 2015, and for what services. Thanks for passing along the info. Here's the URL, for those who'd like to take a look:


L S. avatar

L S.

They push the big drugs, not supplements. What sort of bull is this? They actually do not believe in supplements much up here so the big name DRUG companies are the bosses.

Ed Wagner avatar

Ed Wagner

I find the writer Ed Tobias to either be profoundly ignorant or purposefully misleading. Lets start with the fact that Pharmaceutical prescriptions are based upon plant phytochemicals (supplements). A supplement big pharma can not make sufficient money one because a plant product can not be patentable. So, Big Pharma copies the molecular structure in a lab so they can now patent and generate controlled earnings. Problem is now the product requires binders to hold the once natural molecule together. The binders cause serious adverse side effect and Big Pharma is now the 3rd largest killer in the U.S. All facts.

Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Thanks for providing your opinion. I hope that you are able to respect mine.


Jim Smith avatar

Jim Smith

Hard to respect your opinion when your blog is loaded with ads for big pharma isn’t it? How is that an objective opinion? It’s actually a highly biased opinion.

Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Thanks for taking the time to comment, Jim.

I am an independent patient columnist. What I write is totally separate from the business practices of this web site. Multiple Sclerosis News Today is, obviously, a business that's designed to make money. But I have nothing to with the business. I'm not even an employee. I'm a freelancer who writes what he thinks, regardless of who may be buying ads. I hope that my columns will encourage discussion, whether or not those opinion agree with mine.

Did you read the column on which you've commented. It's hardly a pro-healthcare business column. If you'd like my thoughts that relate specifically to pharmaceutical companies, here's a column that was just published yesterday.



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