The medical community is alarmed at the financial relationship between the medical device industry and physician community. Financial payments made to doctors may influence how doctors choose medical devices for their ailing patients. Medical crises like the massive DePuy hip recall and Zimmer hip lawsuits enlarge the concern over potential kickbacks paid to doctors from the medical device industry.
The Archives of Internal Medicine recently published a study by four scientific and medical researchers detailing the shocking number of payments that the medical device industry pays to orthopedic surgeons, the very physicians who advise and operate on patients in dire need of medical implants. Patients entrust orthopedic surgeons with the integrity of their bodies. The medical device industry should not be able to compromise that trust.
The Archives of Internal Medicine study is titled: "Financial Payments by Orthopaedic Device Makers to Orthopaedic Surgeons." The researchers who performed the study were Jason M. Hockenberry, PhD; Paula Weigel, MS; Andrew Auerbach, MD, MPH; Peter Cram, MD, MBA. The researchers were able to uncover the extent of medical payments from medical device makers to orthopedic surgeons by analyzing the data made available by the Department of Justice.
In 2007, the Department of Justice (DOJ) launched a serious investigation of the largest medical device manufacturers in the United States. DePuy Orthopaedics (a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson), Zimmer, Biomet, and Smith & Nephew were suspected of violating federal anti-kickback laws. Specifically, the DOJ believed that the medical device manufacturers paid doctors to induce them to use that company's medical devices. The companies may have encouraged doctors to prescribe products like DePuy ASR hip replacements based on finances instead of their patient's needs.
The medical device manufacturers involved in the investigation account for more than 90% of the American medical device market. The investigation resulted in a settlement. Under the terms of the settlement, the medical device manufacturers must comply with reporting procedures about payments made to doctors. The companies also agreed to federal oversight and new compliance procedures.
The medical study found that since the 2007 DOJ investigation, the number of payments to doctors from medical device manufacturers increased. Before the settlement, medical device manufacturers made more than 1,000 payments to doctors in a single year. Those payments totaled more than $198 million. After the settlement, the amount of money paid to doctors increased. In a single year, major medical device manufacturers paid $228 million to orthopedic surgeons in one year.