Medtronic Pays $23 Million to Settle Doctor Kickback Charges

Jane Akre
December 18, 2011

Medtronic is the world’s top maker of medical devices and it didn’t get that way without help. The U.S. Department of Justice accused the Minnesota-based company of having friends in high places – namely doctors who would receive anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 for every patient who they send to use a Medtronic defibrillator or pacemaker, a sort of a referral fee.

Now Medtronic will pay $23.5 million to settle the federal kickback allegations.

Taint Sound Medical Judgment

Reuters (here) reports that some believe the payments may taint sound medical judgment. Of an additional concern is that Medtronic is alleged to have written up false expense claims and submitted them to Medicare and Medicaid. Two Medtronic whistle blowers will split $4 million for turning in the company. Medtronic says it did nothing wrong.

But Medtronic is not off the hook. The company is still being investigated by the Justice Department concerning the controversial bone growth product, Infuse, and company payments to doctors who wrote glowing reports on the product used in spinal fusion surgery, downplaying the complication rate by 10 to 50 times, even though Infuse is linked to cancer, inflammation, and sterility in men.

$61 Million in Kickbacks?

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune found Medtronic paid $61 million in consulting fees and perks to doctors in 2011 (background story here).

The FDA’s Dr. Jeffrey Shuren was a guest of Medtronic last November (here).

And Medtronic is just one of many Minnesota based medical device companies pushing to minimize regulation so devices can make it to the market quicker and with less regulatory burden. (background story here).

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