According to a new study, orthopedic surgeons are still receiving considerable payments from drug and medical device companies. The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, examines reported payments by the five largest artificial device manufacturers, and finds that their total payments to orthopedists has not decreased since scrutiny arose. This raises ethical questions, as some of the products supported and promoted by these surgeons have been prone to early failure and other problems. For example, DePuy Orthopedics, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, allegedly paid doctors over $80 million to promote its hip replacement. This ASR metal-on-metal hip replacement has caused a number of problems for patients and was eventually recalled as widespread claims arose that the product was defective and dangerous.
Between 2008 and 2010, the companies still report having increased their payouts to doctors by over 40 percent.
In 2007, the five largest artificial hip and knee replacement manufacturers (Biomet DePuy Orthopedics, Stryker, Smith & Nephew and Zimmer) settled a lawsuit with the U.S. Department of Justice that alleged they were providing kickbacks to orthopedists that pushed their products. The year of the settlement, 2007, saw manufacturers pay 939 surgeons almost $200 million, with 43 of the payments totaling over $1 million, according to the allegations. As part of the lawsuit, the Feds started requiring full transparency into where money is given, causing the number of doctors paid to drastically decrease, according to reports. Since the lawsuit though, although fewer doctors are being paid, the total amount of money dished out is reportedly increasing. Between 2008 and 2010, the companies still report having increased their payouts to doctors by over 40 percent.
As part of the settlement with the Justice Department regarding the alleged kickbacks, the five largest device manufacturers had to pay $311 million. Though this number seems large, the companies were spared criminal charges. Alarmingly, the study’s authors concluded: "This proportion is striking because previous studies have found that even seemingly trivial gifts, such as pens and small food purchases, from pharmaceutical sales representatives can alter physician behavior."
Though only around 4% of the country’s 25,000 orthopedists receive payments from device makers, the integrity of research is questionable considering the failure of some of the devices they have supported. If you or a family member has had negative side effects believed to be caused by metal-on-metal hip replacement, contact an experienced DePuy hip recall attorney to pursue compensation for replacement, medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. The lawsuits against DePuy and Johnson & Johnson are for product liability, negligence and failure-to-warn claims.