In America, prostate cancer patients suffer when profit comes first

It's a familiar story line in America: the type of medical care people receive suffers because doctors are pressured to put profit before patients. In this Businessweek article, a closer look at how many prostate cancer patients may not be receiving the optimal course of treatment for their disease, because care providers can bill more for certain forms of treatment.

The article begins with the story of Max Calderon, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2010. His urologist recommended radiation therapy at a clinic in Salinas, CA. Calderon was 77 years old, lab tests suggested that his cancer had metastasized, and he was not the ideal candidate profile for the specific kind of treatment he was going to receive.

His urologist, Amir Saffarian, didn't mention alternatives, Calderon said. So he made 47 trips to the clinic, 28 miles from his home, where medical technicians fired radiation beams at his prostate. Calderon said he never saw Saffarian there — even though the urologist billed Medicare and Medicaid $30,000 for the treatment, his records show.

"The way they do their business, there's something fishy going on," Calderon said in an interview before his death in August at age 79, after the cancer metastasized.

Investigators with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are examining Calderon's case history, and others, to see whether the Salinas clinic and doctors who send patients there are violating laws against making referrals chiefly for financial gain, according to people familiar with the matter.

Read the rest. Reminds me a lot of the PBS Frontline "Dollars and Dentists" documentary Miles O'Brien did recently.

(thanks, subatomicdoc!)