It’s Not Just Drug Companies Doing It…

From today’s Washington Post, check out this story about the relationships between medical device makers and some/many surgeons who use their devices:

Four makers of artificial hips and knees paid doctors more than $800 million in royalties and fees in four years to influence their choice of implants, a U.S. investigator told Congress. The unidentified companies control about three-quarters of the $9.4 billion worldwide market for hips and knees, said Gregory E. Demske, an assistant inspector general at the Health and Human Services Department, at a hearing yesterday of the Senate Special Committee on Aging.

“Illegitimate” payments, the extent of which is unknown, influence orthopedic surgeons’ medical judgment and are so common that it will be difficult to eliminate the practice, Demske and other witnesses said. The fees have enriched doctors and distorted the market by bolstering sales of lower-quality devices, they said. “Industry and physicians are equally culpable,” said Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), chairman of the panel. “Some physicians make it known to the companies that they will be loyal to the highest bidder. Where does the patient’s well-being fit into the equation?”

Check out this from a doc who is committed to stopping these practices:

Efforts to curb questionable consulting fees have failed so far, said Charles Rosen, an Irvine, Calif., orthopedic surgeon, who started the Association for Ethics in Spine Surgery. He testified that he was vilified by leaders of his medical specialty, including medical journal editors, because of his opposition to company payments.

“I don’t believe the medical societies are capable of doing it, nor the industry,” he said. “It is so embedded now among most of the people running these societies, including the educational foundations, that I don’t think it’s possible to change that without something from the outside happening.”

It’s not just the inappropriate influence of pharmaceutical companies that needs to be addressed. It’s the medical device makers, too.

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3 Responses to It’s Not Just Drug Companies Doing It…

  1. Dan says:

    Crime and Punishment: Enough for Corporate Wrongdoing?

    Corporate crime should not be a new concept to many. However, it has evolved into more troubling ways- not only in regards to its severity, but the methods of deterrence now being implemented against corporations- involved in the health care industry in particular. So it may be becoming progressively worse for U.S. citizens as a result.
    Rather than speak of all corporations, what will be discussed is government health care fraud. Fraud basically is deception with the potential to harm others. In the case of pharma companies, this may include improper promotion and marketing, meaning that such tactics are or may be deceptive misconduct that may be illegal. In addition, there are the crimes of kickbacks and lesser crimes of misbranding products. Probably more methods of wrongdoing as well do in fact exist and happen. Yet the point is that drug companies should not engage in such wrongdoing to enrich their faceless existence with profiting off those who are ill in illegal ways.
    How is such conduct discovered? Typically by whistleblowers who worked for the described pharma company, and such people are rare for a number of reasons. The whistleblower then seeks legal agents and files what is called a qui tam false claims act with a district attorney’s office (Boston or Philadelphia, if you want prosecutors to take you seriously). After the case is filed, the whistleblower verbally acknowledges the charges and evidence to the chosen prosecutors and others.
    Such cases usually take years for unclear reasons, yet in the past two years, the settlements from such cases has approached 2 billion dollars after investigations ended that took years, which is tax dollars returned to the American public with these settlements.
    So, what has been happening once a pharma company is busted. Criminal indictment by the district prosecutor? Hardly, yet appropriate. Usually, the prosecutor’s objective is to dismiss the case, but give the impression that such activities will not be tolerated by our government. So Corporate Integrity Agreements are mandated to the pharma company, but not really taken seriously, as some have more than one of these agreements active still. It’s an invisible ankle bracelet. A pharma company can and have committed equal or worse crimes while under such an agreement. This Agreement is issued after the deferred or non prosecution agreement is sentenced to the law-breaking corporation, which basically is a pre-trial diversion. Essentialy, it’s just parole, which is supported by the DOJ and the administration. The criminals admit wrongdoing, but not guilt. And they pay a settlement in the neighborhood of hundreds of millions of dollars. Not that shocking, if you consider the income of big pharma companies. These agreements are relatively new and partially a result of suggestions from what was known as a Thompson memo, which basically was created by a DOJ guy as commandments for prosecuting corporations and variables to consider when doing so, which ultimately offered responses as to why a greater degree of punishment was not enforced.
    We are one of three countries in the world with the most prisoners behind bars, yet those that do similar if not greater harm to others get out of jail free. Double standard, I would say. Is this behavior by our legal system towards corporations an effective deterrent? Most think not. It rather seems like tacit approval of their conduct. And health care fraud may be more damaging than other types in other industries, yet lack of regulation allows such crimes to continue.
    Citizens should make the laws in our country. Justice would then finally exist.

    “Corporations cannot commit treason, nor be outlawed, nor excommunicated, for they have no souls.”
    —- Edward Coke

    Dan Abshear

  2. Ryan says:

    The focus should be on the insurance companies and not the pharmaceutical industry as they are the people that really influence physician prescribing habits!!! A major conflict of interest would include physician withhold where doctors have financial incentive to provide subpar care based on insurance policies regulating access. I believe the majority of the lives in the state pay a large amount out of their paycheck to health insurance companies and not directly to pharmaceutical companies. This state has so many regulations on healthcare it makes me sick, and it only hurts the patient outcomes in the end. Senators and people makeing up these bills should look a lot deeper into the influences on physician care practices and I AM CONFIDENT they will find a greater influence that pharma reps and the heavily regulated pharma industry. INSURANCE COMPANIES…..BLUE CROSS BLUE SHIELD-sucking money out of its plan members but restricting the care they deserve!!! GET IT STRAIGHT MURRAY!!!! You are an idiot!!!

  3. It’s great to see some folks speaking up about other health care issues. Many would blame the increasing costs of medical supplies on the high-flying costs of health care insurance these days.

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