(Reuters Health) –
Orthopedic surgeons have received hundreds of millions of dollars from
joint implant manufacturers in recent years, according to a report
In 2007, five device makers said they had paid surgeons more than $198 million, with 43 payments exceeding $1 million.
the number of payments appears to have dropped since 2007, the average
dollar amount has gone up, based on data from the three manufacturers
that disclosed physician payments made in the last several years.
is a lot of money flowing back and forth,” said Jason Hockenberry of
Emory University, whose findings are published in the Archives of
ties represent anything from consulting fees to royalties to research
support. Some argue they are necessary to drive medical innovations, but
others fear they could end up harming patients as well.
getting industry money could be quicker to use implants from the
companies paying them, for instance, or downplay the side effects of
those products in their research.
new results come as the U.S. Senate investigates whether surgeons paid
by Medtronic, a medical device maker not included in the current study,
failed to report sterility and other complications stemming from the
company’s bone-growth implant Infuse.
is evidence from other studies that these relationships drive practice
one way or another,” said Dr. Seth Leopold, of the University of
Washington School of Medicine, who was not involved in the new work.
An orthopedic surgeon himself, Leopold chose to sever all ties to device makers in 2005.
felt there was no way I’d be able to convince people that these dollars
did not affect my clinical decisions,” he told Reuters Health.
After seeing the new report, Leopold added, he realized he was just “a smalltime guy.”
findings are based on data released after the five largest orthopedic
implant makers — Biomet Orthopedics, DePuy Orthopedics, Smith &
Nephew, Stryker Orthopedics and Zimmer — settled a kickback probe with
the U.S. Department of Justice in 2007.
year, the companies made more than 1,000 physician payments. In 2008,
after the companies found out they’d have to disclose those
relationships, the number fell by almost half.
the three companies that continue to voluntarily disclose payments
increased the amount of money they paid doctors by more than 40 percent
between 2008 and 2010.
The mean, or mid-range, amount of individual payments also rose slightly, from $212,740 in 2007 to $233,108 in 2010.
you are concerned about your physician’s loyalties you should by all
means ask them,” said Hockenberry, stressing that the majority don’t
have industry ties.
“The reality is, only four percent of all orthopedic surgeons are receiving funds,” he said.
is currently unclear what impact commercial relationships have on
patient care. Hockenberry said he’d like to know more about the doctors
who stopped taking industry money after the 2007 settlement and those
who continued to do so.
“We would also love to be able to tie this to clinical practice,” he said.
way to do so would be to establish a universal device registry for all
the implants patients get, so that it would be possible to look at the
link between company payments and physician practice patterns.
to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed last year,
manufacturers must report payments of more than $10 by 2013, and this
information will be freely available online.
in an editorial on the new study, Dr. Robert Steinbrook of Yale School
of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, said disclosure alone isn’t
“The disclosure of industry
payments should not divert attention from the real issues with regard
to conflict of interest,” he writes.
are the minimization or elimination of financial ties between
physicians and industry in areas other than research support, bona fide
consulting related to basic and clinical research, and legitimate
payments related to intellectual property. Although many well-publicized
examples with regard to conflict of interest involve physicians in
specific fields, such as orthopedics or psychiatry, the issues are
similar for all specialties.”