Three big stent stories were in the news today. You’d never know that all 3 were about the same topic.
The ugly side of stents is emphasized in David Armstrong’s Bloomberg News story on Mehmood Patel, the Louisiana interventional cardiologist serving a 10-year prison sentence for Medicare fraud. These days Patel “leads health-conscious inmates on a morning walk, then cracks open one of the medical journals on his prison-approved reading list. Counseling fellow convicts to keep their blood pressure down is about the extent of the doctoring done by the man who once boasted he was the busiest cardiologist in the nation.”
Unlike Patel, Mark Midei, the poster-boy of overstenting, never faced criminal charges, but he did lose his medical license and faced an avalanche of lawsuits. Many have been settled our of court, but an important decision was reached yesterday in one very large remaining case. Jessica Anderson reports in the Baltimore Sun that a jury ruled that Midei “improperly placed three stents in the heart of a prominent businessman who didn’t need them.” The businessman is suing Midei and the former owners of his hospital, St. Joseph Medical Center, for $150 million. The businessman claims that he “lost millions of dollars after scaling back his career” after “Midei falsely led him to believe that he had serious coronary artery disease requiring stents.”
But it’s not all bad news for stents. In the New Yorker‘s Elements blog, cardiology fellow Lisa Rosenbaum adopts a much more nuanced view of stents. She writes that “stories about cardiologists behaving badly validate the conviction, common among both policymakers and the public, that misaligned financial incentives drive doctors to do things that they shouldn’t.”
But, she argues, the conservative view, based largely on the well known COURAGE trial, that medical therapy is just as good as a stent, “is a colossal oversimplification.”
Successful conservative management, however, depends on seeing patients regularly, so that you can titrate their medications and make sure that their cardiovascular risk factors are controlled. But Sun Kim didn’t come back.