Fines for conflicts now moving into the medical device arena

Investigators are now starting to fine physicians for having relationships with medical device firms that constitute a conflict of interest, according to this NYT article: Possible Conflicts for Doctors Are Seen on Medical Devices. With the costs of devices rising, I can see why hospitals are peeved at surgeons who are free to use the device of their choice (since they don't have to pay for it themselves), while taking speaker fees and other perks from the companies. Looks like Advamed's Code of Ethics isn't being taken too seriously by some in the industry. This snip should sound awfully familiar:

    In addition to six-figure consulting agreements that also pay doctors to promote a given device, companies pay royalties on new devices, send doctors to educational conferences, sponsor fellowships and provide unrestricted grants.

    The device companies' trade association, AdvaMed, says the industry is highly competitive and spends heavily on innovation. As for the consulting contracts and other benefits, the companies and doctors say they are intended not to buy loyalty but to pay for research and training and for the help doctors provide in designing these sophisticated devices...

    The president of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, Dr. Stuart L. Weinstein, says that since doctors are responsible for most of the innovations in medical devices, "There have to be these close relationships between surgeons and industry." What is important, he adds, is that these relationships are aboveboard and disclosed to the patient, and that the doctor chooses the best device for that patient.

Still, it's an interesting article (free registration req'd).

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