Senate lawmakers are pressuring Medtronic to disclose more information about its consulting arrangements with physicians. They cited previous evidence that the company paid surgeons to boost sales of spinal implants. The company is being asked to release information about the doctors who received company payments. In 2006, Medtronic reached a $40 million lawsuit with the United States Department of Justice to settle charges that it paid physicians millions of dollars in kickbacks to use its spinal products; Medtronic denied any wrongdoing. As part of the agreement in the settlement, the government agreed to seek dismissal for two cases brought by former employees. One of these cases, however, has come under scrutiny after it was reported that Medtronic paid for physicians’ trips to Alaska and paid for entertaining surgeons at a strip club.
A new bill, if passed, will require companies to disclose all payments to physicians over $500; last week Eli Lilly became the first drugmaker to voluntarily reveal the information. Medtronic has claimed that it agrees there should be industry transparency and that they support this bill. Will Medtronic’s actions back its words? Is Medtronic wrongly “working the system” to increase already extraordinary profits? Time will tell, perhaps. Regardless, this bill should be passed; we cannot entrust large corporations to police themselves, as we have seen all too clearly over the past 8 years, and especially in the last several months.