Protect patient safety by honoring doctor’s prescription

Suppose you take your car to the shop because the brakes are failing. The mechanic tells you the brakes need to be replaced. However, the insurance company says it will only pay for new windshield wiper blades, because if you can see more clearly, you won’t have to stop as quickly. 

After your car is “fixed” according to the insurer’s specifications, would you feel confident that the vehicle was safe to drive? 

There is a similar problem in the practice of medicine today, and it is out of the control of both patients and doctors. Insurance companies and pharmacies have gone from just paying the bills and distributing medications to playing doctor.

When a patient enters a physician’s office to be treated, the two begin an ongoing relationship and work together, often over the course of many years, to determine the proper course of treatment. Once that course of treatment is determined, it is dangerous for anyone to alter that course, especially for financial gain.

However, that is exactly what is happening all over the country, especially right here in Louisiana. There are times when insurance companies deny coverage of a prescribed drug – one that a patient and a physician has determined will work best – until multiple other methods of treatment have been attempted. This practice can cause harm to the patient, and often forces a patient to endure months of less than effective treatments – which vary from company to company – and thus more sickness.

Compounding the problem, a pharmacy may attempt to substitute a brand medication with a totally different therapy. In essence, the alternative therapy may work to stop the sickness, but would do so in a different way. While a pharmacist may legally change a brand drug for a generic equivalent with the patient’s permission, the patient is often not informed that the drug he is receiving is not exactly the same as the one he was prescribed.

A generic medication is not always the same as a brand drug. Any change in the chemical compound or the milligram equivalent of a drug, no matter how small, can cause an adverse reaction, particularly for patients with certain conditions, such as epilepsy or a heart condition. Beyond that, generic medications don’t always save the patient money! 

Patients deserve the right to discuss a treatment plan with a doctor in an exam room, not at the spur of the moment at a pharmacy counter.

While we all want to lower the cost of health care, we must provide our patients with safe and effective health care. 

Dr. Keith DeSonier has been a practicing ear, nose and throat physician in Lake Charles since 1982, and is the chairman of the Louisiana American Medical Association Delegation. Dr. Keith DeSonier can be reached at 337.439.0555. 

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