Heart Stent Use Raises Questions Over Doctor, Drug Maker Relationship

We have long written about the controversies caused as a result of the financial relationships between the drug and medical device industries and doctors. Critics have long held that such relationships create conflicts of interest and could unduly influence everything from research findings to prescribing practices.

Now, one such situation in particular is making headlines. The Baltimore Sun wrote that according to a federal report released today, during the same period that cardiologist, Mark Midei, was implanting allegedly unnecessary <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/defective_medical_devices">cardiac stents in hundreds of patients, Abbott Laboratories, a stent manufacturer, was funding lavish parties at Midei’s house and working on a business plan that involved the physician’s numerous surgeries. Midei was ranked as one of Abbott’s top-volume surgeons in the Northeast U.S. region, said Baltimore Sun.

Abbott’s business plan included funding Midei’s research and sending him on “VIP trips,” all of which coincide with Midei’s increased usage of the firm’s stent, said the Baltimore Sun, citing the 170-page report.

The report is the result of an extensive probe by the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance that was looking into accusations of what the Baltimore Sun described as “inappropriate and potentially harmful cardiac procedures performed by Midei at St. Joseph Medical Center.” The report describes the Midei-Abbott scandal as “a clear example of potential fraud, waste, and abuse,” quoted the Baltimore Sun, which pointed out that the medical center charged both government and private insurers over $6.6 million for the procedures.

Committee Chairman Senator Max Baucus discussed, in a statement, his concerns of more widespread issues saying, “this could be a sign of a larger national trend of wasteful medical device use,” quoted the Baltimore Sun. Other claims have been made against cardiologists in about three other states and in other Maryland locations, said the Baltimore Sun.

The New York Times wrote that the Senate Finance Committee began investigating Midei earlier this year after Baltimore Sun articles stated that the physician was implanting stents unnecessarily and enjoying large reimbursements from insurers and Medicare. The Finance Committee oversees Medicare, noted the NY Times.

The Baltimore Sun pointed out that an Abbott official apparently suggested that local connections or the “Philly mob” should be approached to silence Jay Hancock, a columnist at the Baltimore Sun for his reports of the debacle, saying, quoted the Baltimore Sun, that “someone needs to take this writer outside and kick his ass!”

Midei earned more than $1 million in his yearly salary at St. Joseph. He is now accused of performing hundreds of unnecessary stent implantations and faces potentially hundreds of lawsuits, said the Baltimore Sun.

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