Incentives Influence Doctors’ Choice of Prostate Therapy

(p. A1)  The nearly 240,000 men in the United States who will learn they have prostate cancer this year have one more thing to worry about:  Are their doctors making treatment decisions on the basis of money as much as medicine?

Among several widely used treatments for prostate cancer, one stands out for its profit potential.  The approach, a radiation therapy known as I.M.R.T., can mean reimbursement of $47,000 or more a patient.

That is many times the fees that urologists make on other accepted treatments for the disease, which include surgery and radioactive seed implants.  And it may help explain why urologists have started buying multimillion-dollar I.M.R.T. equipment and software, and why many more are investigating it as a way to increase their incomes.

. . .

(p. C7)  The one certainty about I.M.R.T. is that for doctors who own the technology, it can be much more lucrative than alternative treatments.  Medicare and other insurers typically pay urologists only $2,000 or less for performing surgery to remove the prostate or for implanting radioactive seeds.  The insurers say the much higher I.M.R.T. payments, which in some cases exceed $50,000, are based on the technology’s cost.  


For the full story, see: 

STEPHANIE SAUL.  "Profit and Questions as Doctors Offer Prostate Cancer Therapy."  The New York Times  (Fri., December 1, 2006):  A1 & C7.

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