Clark Howard: Give your doctor a check-up with this database

clarkhowardConsumer expert Clark Howard’s column appears here each Thursday in conjunction with Deal Spotter, a new weekly print section in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

I’ve been through a recent cycle with a sinus infection that started out as my usual seasonal allergies. Whenever my allergist writes any prescription for me, I cringe because the cost is always an unknown.

In this case, she prescribed both an antibiotic and a nasal spray. Well, it turned out that 10 days of antibiotics cost me $2.05. It was the cheapest script I have ever had from any doctor at any time. On the other hand, the nasal spray was $90! I had no choice other than to swallow hard and open my wallet.

Now, there are doctors who will write scripts in good faith without knowing the end cost to the patient. And then there are doctors who are on the payroll of giant pharmaceutical companies. They’ll push drugs irrespective of cost because it pads their pockets. (I’m not suggesting my allergist is one of the latter, because she’s not!)

Nearly 400 doctors across the country have received at least $100,000 from drug companies in 2009 and early 2010, according to an independent news organization called ProPublica.
If a doctor is getting a hundred grand or more each year from certain drug makers, what do you think they’re going to write when you come in? A script from the hundreds of generics that Kroger, Walmart and Target offer for $4? No, they’re going write the brand name that gives them kickbacks.

Could your healthcare provider be on the take? If you want to see, you can now run their name through the Dollars for Docs database.

Getting back to my antibiotics prescription, I could have actually paid zero dollars instead of $2.05 if only I’d followed advice I’ve given in the past. Publix pharmacies offer a 14-day supply of select antibiotics absolutely free. Now that’s a price I’m excited about.

- by Clark Howard, Save more, spend less, avoid rip-offs

Find more answers to your consumer questions at You can also listen to his radio show live Monday through Friday 1-4 p.m. on AM 750 and NOW 95.5 FM News/Talk WSB.

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