The 10 Shkreli Award recipients that exemplified 'profiteering and dysfunction' in healthcare

The Lown Institute, a healthcare think tank, has released its third annual Shkreli Awards, a list of the top 10 worst actors in healthcare from the last year. The institute awards people and businesses that exemplify "profiteering and dysfunction in healthcare."

The award is named after Martin Shkreli, the disgraced pharmaceutical exec who gained notoriety for inflating the price of a lifesaving anti-infection drug.

Nominees for the list are determined by the Lown Institute staff with input from readers of its blog. A panel of 16 patient activists, clinicians, health policy experts and journalists determine who receives the awards from that list.

Here are the 10 recipients:

10. José Baselga, MD, PhD, the former CMO of New York City-based Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Dr. Baselga resigned from the medical center after failing to disclose millions of dollars in payments from drug companies. After his resignation, he was tapped to lead AstraZeneca's new oncology research unit.

9. Newark (N.J.) Beth Israel Medical Center and Mark Zucker, MD, the hospital's heart and lung transplant program director. The hospital is accused of keeping a vegetative patient alive for a year to boost its heart transplant program's survival rate, at the direction of Dr. Zucker. 

8. The 35 people, including nine physicians, who were charged in 2019 with billing Medicare $2.1 billion for unnecessary and expensive genetic cancer tests. The physicians were allegedly paid to prescribe the testing without any patient interaction or with only a brief telephone call with patients they never met. The Lown Institute didn't provide the names of the 35 people. 

7. Franklin, Tenn.-based Acadia Healthcare. The psychiatric hospital chain is facing claims that personnel at their hospitals neglected patients, stole from them and abused them. 

6. UNC Children's Hospital in Chapel Hill, N.C. The university medical center made the list because it reportedly pressured its cardiologists to keep referring pediatric patients for heart surgery despite noticing an uptick in surgical complications and deaths. 

5. Richard Sackler, MD, owner and former president of Purdue Pharma. In court filings unveiled last year, Dr. Sackler attempted to cast opioid users as "reckless criminals" to divert blame of the opioid crisis away from the company.

4. Carlyle Group, a private equity firm that is taking over nursing homes. The Carlyle Group earned a Shkreli Award because of the surge in neglected and abused nursing home residents  since it took over the ManorCare nursing home chain.

3. San Francisco, Calif.-based Dignity Health. The health system reportedly used a technicality to force a $898,984 medical bill on a new mother, who was also a hospital employee. Lauren Bard gave birth to her premature daughter and said she called her health plan administrator who assured the child would be covered under the employer health plan. But Dignity Health later said the medical care wouldn't be covered because she didn't use the company website to enroll, according to the award site.

2. TeamHealth and Envision, physician staffing companies backed by private equity firms. The two organizations spent more than $28 million on advertisements to defeat surprise-billing legislation through an organization they created called Doctor Patient Unity. Surprise bills are unanticipated out-of-network medical bills that often stick patients with large sums to pay off.

1. Nonprofit hospitals that sue patients for unpaid bills. Topping this year's list are the nonprofit hospitals that have sued thousands of patients for unpaid medical bills, garnished wages and seized houses. The list names several hospitals: Charlottesville, Va.-based UVA Medical Center; Fredericksburg, Va.-based Mary Washington Hospital; Carlsbad (N.M.) Medical Center; Memphis, Tenn.-based Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare; Poplar Bluff (Mo.) Regional Medical Center, and Johnson City, Tenn.-based Ballad Health.

Access the full list, methodology and panelist accreditations here

More articles on rankings and ratings:

Leapfrog names 2019 Top Hospitals
America's Health Rankings: How all 50 states fared
US states ranked by suicide rate

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