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Medtronic’s questionable practices – “bribing” docs?

A (free subscription required) lawsuit filed against medical device manufacturer Medtronic claims the company paid over $50 million over four years to doctors for highly questionable “consulting services“. Some physicians were paid several hundred thousand dollars a year for a few days’ work. The suit, filed by a whistleblower, sheds light on what some view as the highly questionable practice of combining marketing and research efforts, with the apparent goal of “encouraging” consulting physicians to use Medtronic devices.
With technology adoption one of the major drivers of health care cost inflation this is a particularly troubling accusation.
According to an article in the New York Times describing the suit, physicians’ use of Medtronics devices was closely tracked, with dollar values attached to each doc;
“A spreadsheet compiled by Medtronic for a June 2003 meeting in Dana Point, Calif., indicated what Medtronic hoped to accomplish with each doctor attending an event, Ms. Poteet said. This list of 230 or so doctors included an estimate of the dollar value of the devices each doctor used in surgery, including the value of the devices made by Medtronic. One doctor is described as “a 100 percent compliant M.S.D. customer,” while others were cited for “special attention.” M.S.D. referred to Medtronic Sofamor Danek, the largest competitor in the spinal device market.
A surgeon in Phoenix, who used an estimated $400,000 in devices, favored a rival maker, Spinal Concepts, the spreadsheet said. Company representatives were urged to make overtures to him. “M.S.D. corporate involvement at this program,” it said, “would help us earn a bigger share of his business on a grand scale

One thought on “Medtronic’s questionable practices – “bribing” docs?”

  1. Having managed a pre cert dept for many years, I can appreciate the back surgery situation. The health plan that I worked for identified the frequent back surgeries and started a program educating the members on conservative treatments for back pain. As I remember, it wasn’t very successful. It would seem that some of the high cost billing could be addressed on the claim side as opposed to criteria for pre cert. We seldom denied a back surgery.

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Joe Paduda is the principal of Health Strategy Associates




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