AMA House of Delegates

AMA meeting: Tougher rules needed to stop misleading medical device ads

Delegates say DME distributors frequently misconstrue the process in which patients must follow to receive their supplies.

By — Posted July 1, 2013

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Advertisers who promote durable medical equipment should follow tougher regulations to ensure that they do not mislead patients about how to obtain the products, according to a Board of Trustees report approved by the American Medical Association House of Delegates.

The report calls on the AMA to pursue legislation or regulations that require direct-to-consumer advertising for DME to include a disclaimer saying that eligibility for and coverage of DME is subject to specific criteria and that only a physician can determine if a patient meets the standards. Such ads also should list the actual criteria from an appropriate source.

Federal rules mandate that to be covered by Medicare, DME must be medically necessary and prescribed by a physician, among other criteria. Covered products include oxygen, wheelchairs, hospital beds, walkers and prosthetics. Delegates said advertisers frequently promote their products without explaining the qualification process.

Inaccurate ads lead to some patients believing they can obtain DME when they do not qualify for the supplies, said Mobile, Ala., urologist Jeff Terry, MD, a delegate for the Medical Assn. of the State of Alabama.

“The doctors have got to say it’s medically necessary,” he said. “We can’t say that without evaluating the patient and making sure it is appropriate. Then, if we don’t approve it, the patient gets mad at us, because the television ads say the doctor can just sign off on it.”

An end to coercive acts

The board report said advertisers should refrain from statements that only a physician order or signature is required to obtain the desired items. The equipment first must meet federal standards before a doctor can approve use of the device.

The report says DME companies also should stop coercive acts that inappropriately influence physicians to sign such prescriptions for their patients.

Approval of the board report should help stop untruthful DME promotions, said Macon, Ga., family physician Michael Greene, MD, an alternate delegate for the Medical Assn. of Georgia. However, he would have liked to see the house go a step further by pushing for prosecution of DME advertisers who make fraudulent statements.

“I think it fell short of saying this is fraud and needs to be prosecuted as such,” he said.

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