I do not want to believe that oncologists would give chemotherapy(CMT) to patients who they do not believe would likely benefit simply because they can make a profit on their mark-up on the drugs they administer. I have always had nothing but admiration for oncologists who day by day deal with seriously ill and dying patients and manage to be current and proficient in the variety of cancers they treat and the multiplicity of drug regimens and toxicities and complications.
The ones I have practiced with deserve to be called physicians with all the positive connotations that term can garner.
A recent article in the NYT paints a different picture of some oncologists. Here is some background.For a number of years CMT has been given in oncologists offices. The CMS and third party payers fees exceeded the costs to the docs so there is a make up profit involved. Recently, changes in CMS rules have cut the margin .
The gist of the NYT article is that oncologists are making up for the shortfall with an increase in volume of patients treated with CMT implying that some patients are being given CMT inappropriately.
NYT quotes Dr. Richard Deyo ,a professor at the University of Washington,describing him as a"expert in health care spending" as saying:
There's pretty good evidence at this point that there are plenty of patients for whom there's little hope,who are terminally ill,whom chemotherapy is not going to help, who get chemotherapy
That comment, like most of the NYT article, is heavy on accusations and generalizations and light on supporting data and facts. Dr. Deyo may have analyzed numerous cases and determined that in many instances the CMT was inappropriate but if so I would like to see that analysis. What is the nature of the evidence for his statement? I would be very surprised if Deyo's comments are based on patient level data in which cases are analysed by physicians expert in CMT and wherein inappropriate treatment was found in "plenty of patients". I would not be surprised if that type thing has happened in some cases but I doubt that level of data is what Deyo's statements is based on. Broad brush, coarse grain data is the more likely currency for the type outcomes research that Deyo has been known for (and has gained a well deserved reputation for his work in low back pain treatment outcomes). He may have well done some outcomes research in the CMT area and his comments may have based on that but if there is such data he should have made that fact known to the NYT reporter so the article would appear less like a typical drive-by-media encounter. If he does not have that data, then he may have done disservice to the thousands of patients now receiving CMT who may now wonder if it is avarice and not likelihood of benefit that formed the basis of the decision to treat them.