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Doctors who were paid $12-16 million pimped for Medtronic's poor quality spinal fusion material / NY Times

Posted Jun 28 2011 11:12pm
Finally, members of my profession are fighting back against corrupt doctors and the companies who pay lavishly for their undeserved testimonials.  Respected university bigwigs are just as susceptible as anyone else to 10 or 20 million dollar payoffs:  and they may feel they have no conflict of interest as a result and their work is pure.  (So claimed Dr. Thomas A. Zdeblick of the University of Wisconsin, who has earned $20 million from Medtronic for his patents, including those used with spinal fusions.)

Nonetheless, "scientific" studies get performed and written up and published that  misrepresent the truth, so that a product appears more effective and safer than it really is.  Medtronic paid big bribes, but earned about 900 million from this one product last year, used in 100,000 spinal fusions in 2010!

What is extraordinary is that finally many members of our profession have come out about the fraud, filling an entire issue of The Spine Journal to tell the other side of the story.  Medtronic is not a small player gone awry.  It is the largest medical device manufacturer in the US.  Below are excerpts from the NY Times:
 In an extraordinary move, a group of spine specialists are publicly repudiating the research of other experts that has backed the widespread use of a Medtronic bone growth product. In a series of reports published in a medical journal on Tuesday, the specialists called the research misleading and biased. 
The repudiation, appearing in a full issue of The Spine Journal devoted to the topic, represents a watershed in the long-running debate over conflicts of interest for the sponsorship of scientific studies by makers of drugs and medical devices. It is extremely rare for researchers to publicly chastise colleagues, and editors of leading medical journals said they could not recall an instance in which a publication had dedicated an entire issue for such a singular purpose.
Medtronic, the nation’s biggest maker of medical devices, has been facing intensifying scrutiny over its promotion of Infuse, the bone growth product at the center of the controversy. The bioengineered material is used primarily in spinal fusions, a procedure in which spinal vertebrae are joined to reduce back pain.
Infuse is used in about a quarter of the estimated 432,000 spinal fusions performed in this country each year. The articles published on Tuesday charge that researchers with financial ties to Medtronic overstated Infuse’s benefits and vastly understated its risks by claiming there were none. 
“It harms patients to have biased and corrupted research published,” five doctors wrote in a joint editorial that accompanied the reports. “It harms patients to have unaccountable special interests permeate medical research.”
“The spine care field is currently at a precarious intersection of professionalism, morality and public safety,” Dr. Christopher M. Bono, editor of the special edition, said in a statement. “As physicians and journal editors, we felt an obligation to present a thorough examination of this controversial issue.”
“The spine care field is currently at a precarious intersection of professionalism, morality and public safety,” Dr. Christopher M. Bono, editor of the special edition, said in a statement. “As physicians and journal editors, we felt an obligation to present a thorough examination of this controversial issue.”
It is too early to predict how the articles will affect the financial fortunes of Medtronic, which earned an estimated $900 million from Infuse in its most recent fiscal year. But the potential consequences seem significant...

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