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25 July, 2024
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Prioritizing profits over patient safety

Controversial practices lead to amputations, highlighting the need for oversight


Kelly Hanna underwent the amputation of her leg in 2020 after a Michigan doctor, self-proclaimed as the "leg saver," damaged her arteries while attempting to clear away plaque using metal wires. Dr. Jihad Mustapha, referred to by Hanna's podiatrist, performed multiple artery-opening procedures on her legs over 18 months, promising improved blood flow and amputation prevention.

However, these procedures, along with others conducted by Mustapha, did not deliver the promised outcomes and resulted in numerous amputations and complications. Mustapha is part of a flourishing industry backed by medical device manufacturers, which profits from risky procedures targeting millions of Americans with peripheral artery disease. The industry's surge is fueled by changes in Medicare payment policies and the support of major medical equipment companies.

Despite the minimal regulation in the vascular industry, which leads to unnecessary procedures, low fines, and continued practice for doctors found guilty, concerns have been raised by surgeons who often rectify problems caused by doctors in vascular clinics. An analysis of Medicare data reveals that a significant portion of atherectomy payments, amounting to $1.4 billion, has gone to a small number of high-volume providers, many of whom receive payments from the device industry. Mustapha is notable among the top providers for the harm he has caused and the support he receives from the device industry. His clinics have performed a high number of atherectomies, generating millions of dollars in Medicare payments. Former employees describe the clinics as assembly lines, with procedures sometimes being performed on multiple patients simultaneously.

Multiple surgeons have been called in to treat patients harmed by Mustapha, and complaints have been filed against him. The investigations led to disciplinary action and a settlement with the Michigan attorney general, in which Mustapha agreed to pay a fine and take medical education courses. Despite the allegations against him, Mustapha defends his treatment and claims to have saved countless limbs and lives. The case highlights the lack of regulation in the vascular industry and the financial incentives that drive unnecessary procedures, benefiting both doctors and medical device companies at the expense of patients.

[With information sourced from New York Times]

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