vegan dr martens C doctor becomes focus of national TV news story
A Quad City physician became a focus of a national TV news report this week that said taxpayers are being billed hundreds of millions of dollars per month for specialty prescriptions distributed online to veterans.
In the CBS News report that aired Wednesday on the network’s evening newscast, correspondent Jim Axelrod interviewed Dr. Paul Bolger on camera at his Davenport office as part of the segment about the cost to Tricare, the health benefit system for military personnel and veterans in the United States.
Bolger was identified as one of the physicians who has signed prescriptions for patients he has not seen, allowing them to obtain products used to treat pain, among other conditions, that come from a compounding pharmacy in California.
Now associated with a weight loss clinic called Medical Aesthetics Wellness Center, Bolger previously worked in emergency services for UnityPoint Health Trinity in the Quad Cities.
He declined to be interviewed when contacted Thursday by the Quad City Times, but he did issue this prepared statement through an attorney on Friday:
“I have done everything I can to provide and promote high quality medical care here in the Quad Cities for many years, whether in the emergency room or at the clinic.
“That includes our military veterans who I’ve always dropped everything to care for.
“In looking back, I should have verified my understanding that the patients had been seen by qualified healthcare providers before I signed those prescriptions.
“I sincerely regret I did not live up to my own high standards, and last week I personally suggested the Iowa Board of Medicine review my handling of these prescriptions.”
In the CBS News report, Major Gen. Richard Thomas, the head of the Tricare system, said patients who acquire drugs directly online without first being seen by a physician are costing taxpayers “hundreds ofmillions of dollars” each month.
Axelrod subsequently received a package in the mail containing pain and scar creams from a Palmdale, Calif. based compounding pharmacy, Haoeyou, with prescriptions having been signed by Bolger.
In his interview with Axelrod, Bolger said that he “didn’t disagree” with anything Axelrod said about the process, adding that he had “no excuses” and “no bad intentions.”
The doctor said further in the TV report that he was under the impression patients were being screened and spoken to by a qualified medical provider.
“That would be someone who is qualified to make decisions that it was safe for you to have these meds,” he told the CBS reporter.
Axelrod pointed out that he lives in New York and that Bolger is not licensed to practice medicine in that state. military was billed for prescriptions he wrote.
The doctor added that he is not the only physician in the United States who is part of the program. “Hundreds of others do this,
” he said. “I believe almost none of them know the details of the system.”
After the on camera interview portion of the segment, Axelrod said Bolger told him he is not paid to write the prescriptions but actually reviews patients’ files and is paid less than $50 per file to do so.
“I’m not going to make excuses for what I was doing,”Bolger said on camera. “It’s not that I had bad intentions, it was that I was under the mistaken impression that patients such as yourself were being spoken with by a qualified medical provider someone who’s qualified to screen you, do a intake over the phone and make sure you were safe to have these meds.”
On the CBS News website Friday, the network states that Bolger told them after his interview with Axelrod that he iswriting prescriptions onlyfor patients he calls himself.
What is a compounding prescription?
“Compounding,” according to the Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, is a practice by which a licensed pharmacist, a licensed physician or, in the case of an outsourcing facility, a person under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist, combines, mixes or alters the ingredients of a drug to create a medication tailored to the needs of an individual patient.
Two or more drugs are considered a compounding combination, the FDA states on its website. In addition, the agency provides examples of why compounds may be used, including a case of patients with allergies who cannot take an FDA approved medication because its contains a dye, or a case of an elderly patient or child who cannot swallow a pill and needs an FDA approved medication in a liquid form that is not otherwise available.
The FDA does not verify the safety or effectiveness of compounded drugs. Generally, state boards of pharmacy have primary responsibility in day to day oversight of the drugs, the FDA states on its website.