January 4, 2008

Dear Patients:

It’s hard to believe that another year has gone by. For the patients who are new to our practice, every year, I write a letter that talks a little bit about the goings on at Treasure Coast Dermatology (TCD) and in our community.

In my last letter, I had much more personal information to share with you. I spoke about my recent marriage to Cammy (we have just celebrated our one year anniversary, and Cammy says that she’s going to keep me!). We are trying to start a family, so hopefully by the time the next letter rolls around, we will have some good news. And Dr. Sanders just bought a new home on the Treasure Coast. We are both reaffirming our commitment to the Treasure Coast and to our patients as we both plan to call this area home while we watch our families and our community grow.

Speaking of which, our community has taken a few hard hits lately due to the real estate crisis. Politicians and economists might debate the causes and try to come up with solutions, but this issue has affected everyone on the Treasure Coast. Watching our neighbors and even some of our patients being forced out of their homes has been a difficult thing to do.

This financial issue is one that crosses all lines, whether you’re older, younger, black, white, a nurse or a construction worker. Many who want to leave can’t sell their houses; many more are having trouble paying their taxes and, especially, their insurance.

Sometimes, it seems that there is little we can do about it, and though some say that may be so, Dr. Sanders and I disagree.

We live in a beautiful place that is going through a rough patch, as are many other areas of the country. The best way to speed the recovery of our community is to support it. If we, as a community, take care of our own people, our own roads, if we support our local merchants, our police, our teachers and our schools, it can only make a positive difference.

Here at TCD, we help where we can. We want to see our community thrive, grow and remain a safe place to live. Following that philosophy, we have tried over the past year to sponsor events and organizations that enhance our community.

Last year, we sponsored the Glenn Miller concert at Tradition. Besides the fact that I love the music, it was a great time for everybody. We are doing the same this year (inside scoop: although not yet announced as often time of the writing of this letter, it’s scheduled for January 25th – so be sure to mark your calendars!)

Also, although neither I nor Dr. Sanders are golfers, we decided to sponsor the Ginn Sur Mer Classic at Tesoro this past October – making Treasure Coast Dermatology the only dermatologic sponsor of this event – an event that brought national attention to our community. The Classic brought not only attention in the form of visitors, spectators and golfers, it also received NATIONAL television coverage. We passed out more than 10,000 packets of sunscreen and met a lot of great people along the way.

In addition, Dr. Sanders and I help to sponsor both the Riverside and Sunrise Theaters. You don’t have to donate to support them, go see a show and grab dinner at one of the local restaurants.

This year, we adopted a street (no, they didn’t name it TCD Boulevard). Our local cities ask organizations and businesses to get out and help keep the roads clean. We have adopted St. Lucie West Boulevard from the I-95 entrance and exit ramps stretching one mile east. Keeping this area clean is our pleasure.

IRCC Treasure Coast Public Safety Training Complex: This is a big one. Few of us know how far Indian River Community College has come. They are now offering four year degrees and are rapidly becoming an educational force in Florida. Dr. Massey, IRCC’s president, has done incredible things with the campus, the faculty and the curriculum. While we might not think that it affects us, the education of our youth is vital to keeping our country strong. With college tuition increasing more than 15% per year, IR.CC allows students to get an education without breaking the bank or incurring unmanageable debt.

The world seems to become scarier each year; a strong and educated youth will enable us to meet the challenges that our country might face. Because of this, Dr. Sanders and I have sponsored the Fire Science & Technology Facility for IRCC’s Treasure Coast Public Safety Training Complex. This vital facility will provide training for emergency responders and public safety (this includes an emergency management program for anti-terrorism and U.S. security). Did you know that this was being done in our community? We didn’t either, until last month. In addition to training people from all over the world how to save lives, it will bring in jobs and, I believe, make our community a safer and better place to live.

Again, you don’t have to make a donation to help out. Go to IRCC and see a play or watch their swim team. The IRCC swim team has won 32 straight NJCAA swimming championships. Thirty two championships! (I wish that my hometown football team, the Miami Dolphins, were doing so well.) Go to the meets and cheer for the home team!

Many in the community are aware that Treasure Coast Dermatology supports the canine units of our local law enforcement. Last year, the K-9 officers came to our picnic to demonstrate the skills of these wonderful animals and their dedicated handlers. Let them know how much we appreciate their help.

Please join us in the support of these and the many other important local causes.

Now, on to some medical news:

Medicare HMOs are still appearing on the Treasure Coast. I understand the cost of medication can be prohibitive and that these organizations might offer some help, but please beware of the “hard sell” and misleading information that some of these representatives might be giving out. They want your money, they have quotas, and ultimately, your best interest might not be what they are looking after. I am sorry to say, but please be careful.

Drug prices are skyrocketing. It is becoming common for representatives of drug companies to approach doctors and offer money in the form of “honorariums”. By increasing the cost of medications, the drug companies are siphoning money out of your pockets and placing it into theirs. Unfortunately, some doctors are helping them. Doctors are being paid by drug reps to give lectures, and in exchange, the doctor will, of course, write more of their prescriptions. It saddens me that this is happening. I have no problem with a recognized expert being paid to present his research on a particular drug or affliction, but when a doctor with little or no training on a medication or disease is handed a “canned”speech by a drug rep, well, that is a betrayal of the spirit of why we became doctors in the first place.

This doesn’t happen with generic medication, because the lower pricing of generics does not allow for these shenanigans. If you would like to research this in further detail, go to the web and type in “doctor” and “kickback”. This practice is commonplace. I brought this issue up in my last letter, and needless to say, I won’t be voted president of the local medical society anytime soon. I took tremendous criticism from some of my colleagues on this issue.

Here is a quote from an article on boston.com (from the Boston Globe website 09/28/07):

Bristol-Myers Squibb Company and its subsidiary, Apothecon, have agreed to pay more than $515 million to settle a broad array of federal and state civil allegations involving their drug marketing and pricing practices, US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan said today.
The government alleged that from 2000 to mid-2003, BMS paid illegal remuneration to physicians and other healthcare providers to get them to promote BMS drugs. The payments were in the form of consulting fees and other programs, some of which involved travel to luxurious resorts.

Luxurious resorts? Illegal remuneration? 515 million dollars? This does happen. Some practices, locally, solicit funds from drug reps for their Christmas parties. Money that comes from YOU (though you probably weren’t invited). This doesn’t happen in Europe because the governments there are allowed to negotiate reduced drug prices. Our system does not have such checks and balances. The drug industry claims that they need this extra money to continue to innovate. When the drug industry spends more money on advertising and marketing than it does on research and development, well, that tells you something.

Our practice takes nothing of any value from drug reps or their companies.

Get angry about this, and ask your doctors about these issues.

To conclude our medical news, the issue of physicians’ assistants comes up yet again. Some patients have come to my office and have said they have never seen a doctor in the years that they have visited certain physicians’ offices. While this is legal, it needs to be stopped. Ask for the doctor each time you go to the physician’s office.

We, at Treasure Coast Dermatology, wish the highest quality of health care for each and every member of our community.

In closing, I would like to share an extraordinary personal event which happened in early 2007: a pregnant female dolphin (later named Castaway) stranded herself on the beach near our house. Cammy and I were able to assist with her rescue. I am sad to relay that her baby died soon after being born, and due to her own hearing defect, Castaway cannot be released back into the wild. Throughout Castaway’s ordeal, the dedication and love for animals that was shown by the volunteers and staff members of the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute was truly incredible. The proximity to the sea and its wildlife is one of the things that make this community such a wonderful place to live. If you are interested in supporting the Institute or would like to take a tour, you can find them at 5600 US 1 North * Fort Pierce, FL 34946 (772) 242-2400. You can also visit the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute.

I appreciate the support that you all have given to our practice over the past year. Dr. Sanders and I along with the entire TCD staff look forward to seeing you at the party.

Best wishes to all,

Tim Ioannides, M.D.