NEW YORK -- Marketers peddling pain and scar creams directly to military personnel are costing the Pentagon hundreds of millions of dollars a month, according to Major General Richard Thomas. Thomas, who oversees TRICARE, the military's health benefit system, says doctors are complicit in the process.
"They're getting providers, doctors or whomever to write scripts, fill in scripts without even seeing the patient," said Thomas.
To find out who these doctors are -- we filled out an online form requesting pain and scar creams from a website called www.Healing4Heroes.us.
Two weeks later -- without ever seeing a doctor or even talking to one -- we received a package from Haoyou Pharmacy in California. It contained pain and scar creams prescribed by Paul Bolger, a doctor who runs a weight loss clinic in Davenport, Iowa.
When we visited Dr. Bolger's office last week, he agreed to answer a few questions. When asked if he was doing something wrong, Bolger said: "I couldn't disagree with that."
"I'm not going to make excuses for what I was doing," said Dr. Bolger. "It's not that I had bad intentions, it was that I was under the mistaken impression that patients such as yourself were being spoken with by a qualified medical provider -- someone who's qualified to screen you, do a intake over the phone, and make sure you were safe to have these meds."
Dr. Bolger told us he's sent prescription requests like ours by a service that pays him to review patient files from states where he's licensed -- New York, the state of our request, is not one of them.
"I'm only supposed to be sent prescriptions from the states where I'm licensed. Unfortunately, in this case, one time I got a prescription from a state where I wasn't supposed to," said Dr. Bolger.
Dr. Bolger said that our prescription was the only one he's written for someone who lives in a state where he's not licensed. He said he had no idea the U.S. military was billed for prescriptions he writes, but that he does know he's not the only one writing them.
"You're coming to see me but I can tell you there are hundreds of physicians doing the same thing right now. I believe that probably almost none of them understand the process," said Dr. Bolger.
Dr. Bolger says since our interview he is only writing prescriptions for patients he calls himself. He says he's not paid to write prescriptions, only to review the files and earns less than $50 a piece. As for Hayou Pharmacy, the company did not respond to our requests for comment.