Medtronic Paid $15.7 Million to U.S. Doctors

In its first ever such announcement, medical device maker <"">Medtronic Inc., just revealed that it paid in excess of over $15.7 million in royalties and consulting fees to United States doctors in this year’s first quarter, wrote the Wall Street Journal. The announcement was made prior to mandates under a new federal law in which these details must be disclosed by 2013, said the Journal, which noted that the disclosure also takes place when federal prosecutors and Congressional investigators are looking into relationships between drug and device firms and physicians.

Most of the payments—$14.2 million—were paid to orthopedic specialists and surgeons, with $13.9 million in royalty payments for an array of physicians’ surgical inventions, said the Journal. Another $512,000 was paid to vascular and cardiac specialists, $495,000 to heart-rhythm doctors, and $473,000 to neurosurgeons and neurologists, added the Journal. About 227 doctors and doctor groups received consulting or royalty payments in excess of $5,000—in the aggregate—during the first quarter; smaller amounts, payments to foreign physicians, and payments to physicians conducting clinical studies, were not reported.

Regarding consultancies, senior officials at Medtronic said, in interviews, it is enhancing its consultancy policies and will not be permitting “general consulting” contracts, mandating that information on these consulting relationships be detailed, said the Journal. Payment information for 2010 appears on the drug firm’s Website today.

Medtronic Chairman and Chief Executive Bill Hawkins said, “I’m hard-pressed to think of any innovation we’ve had that didn’t come from Medtronic working with physicians…. My aim is to raise the bar for the industry … there were some relationships that did not make sense, and we’ve eliminated them,” reported the Journal. Senator Herb Kohl (Democrat-Wisconsin), who sponsored the recently passed doctor-disclosure law, called Medtronic’s move, “a voluntary decision to stay ahead of the transparency curve,” quoted the Journal.

How drugs and medical devices are marketed has been under intense review recently, with a number of government investigations probing how products are advertised, how doctors and hospitals are marketed by drug company representatives, and how experts are compensated by drug makers to lead studies and speak on products.

It is a well-known fact that financial ties between doctors, medical researchers, academia, and the drug industry run deep and some highly regarded doctors and researchers have faced a great deal of criticism because of such financial arrangements. The drug and device industries have made headlines recently over ties to the medical community. The medical profession, also, has taken hits for accepting perks that include anything from pens and mugs to dinners and tony vacations that critics feel better enable Big Pharma to gain support from prescribing doctors.

The Journal noted that Senator Charles Grassley’s (Republican-Iowa) office has been looking into the relationship Medtronic had with orthopedic surgeons in the past couple of years. In 2006, Medronic agreed to pay $40 million to resolve government civil charges that is orthopedic arm paid kickbacks to surgeons in exchange for their buying Medtronic products. The payments, made in the form of royalties for various inventions such as “screws, metal cages, and scopes used in back surgery” ranged in the millions of dollars, creating a challenge when determining if the monies were legitimate or inducements, noted the Journal.

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