For-profit kidney dialysis centers use more dangerous and expensive drugs than their non-profit counterparts, according to a study by the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The controversial drugs known as erythropoiesis-stimulation agents (ESAs), help raise levels of hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen. But they can also increase blood clots and risks of heart attacks, strokes and heart failure. The study claims that these drugs are often over-prescribed and conflicts of interest between doctors and pharmaceutical companies exist. "Financial considerations may have played a role in ESA dosing in for-profit facilities," the study’s authors claimed in the report released Monday.

What is more disturbing is that for-profit companies were using more ESAs despite the fact that in 2007 the FDA issued a black box warning to use ESAs such as Amgen's Epogen and Johnson & Johnson's Procrit, which are used to treat anaemia, as little as possible, Yahoo News reported. FDA research linked higher doses of these drugs to increased risks of death and disease. The study showed that patients who switched to nonprofits averaged a 51 percent decrease in dosage of the drugs.

The study noted that this kind of apparent overuse of controversial drugs might be curtailed by the new healthcare law. As we previously noted in our post about Accountable Care Organizations [insert link], the law incentivizes cost reductions. Whether these incentives will outweigh the influence of big pharmaceutical companies remains to be seen.

If you have a loved one has suffered a heart or blood complication while on Epogen, Procrit or any other ESA, you should contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney immediately. In addition to the manufacturer of the drug, you might have a cause of action against the physician who prescribed it and the dialysis center where you received treatment. You may also want to view my educational video about an interesting case I had against a dialysis center. 

Gerry Oginski
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NY Medical Malpractice & Personal Injury Trial Lawyer
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