Relationship between Biotronik, Nevada Doctors under Scrutiny

Several doctors at the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada are facing questions today after The New York Times reported on their financial ties to Biotronik, a German company that sells <"">pacemakers and defibrillators to the hospital. The doctors were hired as consultants by Biotronik in mid-2008, the same year the University Medical Center began using Biotronik devices.

According to the Times, Biotronik’s national share of the heart-device market barely exceeds 5 percent. But last year at the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada, 95 percent (250 out of 263) of patients receiving a heart device received a Biotronik product. According to The New York Times report, some of these doctors were receiving fees from Biotronik as high as $5,000 a month. One cardiologist was implanting devices valued at $250,000 per month.

The hospital’s chief executive told the Times that she never asked during the hospital’s switch to Biotronik whether those physicians had a financial connection to the company. A federal investigation is now examining Biotronik’s marketing and sales practices.

The medical center responded to the Times’ report by issuing a statement:

“We rely on our cardiologists…to use medical devices which they feel are the best and most reliable. Unlike other cardiac devices, UMC has never had a product recall of the heart device and results to-date show significantly improved outcomes for our cardiac patients…. The rules and regulations of the UMC medical staff require that physicians disclose any financial relationship with a vendor.”

In a written statement, Dr. William Resh, one of the doctors detailed by the Times report, said he and his colleagues never received incentives to sell Biotronik’s devices to patients.

“Neither I, nor any other doctors in our group, receive compensation based on the selection/use of a particular device,” Resh said. “All of our work as consultants is documented and logged, and is based on the number of hours worked.”

Some doctors told the Times said they had switched to Biotronik because they thought the firm’s devices were safer than their competitors’, the Times said.

According to Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Times’ report prompted Nevada Governor Sandoval to request that the state Health and Human Services and the Board of Medical Examiners investigate possible wrongdoing. State law prohibits doctors from accepting fees or compensation that would influence the care or evaluation of a patient.

According to the Las Vegas Sun, The New York Times article has also received attention from some Nevada state lawmakers. Assemblywoman April Mastroluca, D-Henderson, chairwoman of the Assembly Health and Human Services Committee, said she’s concerned about the allegations in the report.

“We need to figure out how it happened, and we are looking into whether it should be common practice or it shouldn’t,” she said.

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