AMA Journal of Ethics®

Illuminating the art of medicine

Journal of Ethics Header

AMA Journal of Ethics®

Illuminating the art of medicine

Virtual Mentor. January 2005, Volume 7, Number 1.

Module 6

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Case 6.3: Office Sales—Supplemental Income

Case Presentation

Dr. Yueh, a member of Dr. Troy's group practice, approached Dr. Troy with a business proposition. He recently read some clinical studies of an herbal supplement he would like to begin selling from the office. He has procured an agreement from the manufacturer and all he needs now is the agreement of the members of the group. He offers to show Dr. Troy the clinical studies and has a sample display set up in his office. Dr. Troy asks Dr. Yueh to get him copies of the clinical studies and provide all the other relevant material—the cost of the supplements, the group's profit from the sales, etc.

The next morning Dr. Troy finds the published material about the clinical studies on his desk with a quick note from Dr. Yueh. The supplement's wholesale cost is $9/bottle and the recommended retail selling price is $15/bottle. Each bottle contains about a month's supply. Even though the clinical studies show marked improvement in research subjects' reported energy level and feelings of well-being, Dr. Troy is unsure of how reliable these subjective reports really are. Upon close investigation, he notes that the study was funded by the supplement's manufacturer. When he asks Dr. Yueh about other studies on the supplements, Dr. Yueh says that there are no other completed studies.

What should Dr. Troy tell Dr. Yueh? (select an option)

A.   He cannot support the sale of this supplement in the office.
B.   He will agree to sell it for a month according to the manufacturers recommendations, to see how things go.
C.   He will agree to sell it from the office at wholesale cost.
The people and events in this case are fictional. Resemblance to real events or to names of people, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. The viewpoints expressed on this site are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the AMA.