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More Allegations that Medical Device Makers Paid Kickbacks to Doctors

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Several medical devices makers have been accused of paying doctors kickbacks in order to induce them to use their products.  The accusations, which involve Medtronic Inc., St. Jude Medical Inc., AtriCure Inc. and Boston Scientific Corp., are made in federal lawsuits recently unsealed in Houston, Texas.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the lawsuits were filed by former employees of the companies. According to the Journal, the lawsuits allege that a “fraudulent marketing and inducement campaign” involving kickbacks to doctors and hospitals resulted in excessive charges to the Medicare insurance program.  For example, several of the suits allege that Boston Scientific, Medtronic and AtriCure marketed surgical ablation equipment as a treatment for atrial fibrillation even though it was not approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat that condition.

Those charges were made by a former Boston Scientific salesperson, who the Journal says, claimed to have been fired after complaining about the company’s allegedly illegal practices.

Allegations of kickbacks by medical device makers are nothing new.  For example, in 2007 a New Jersey based federal probe found  that some orthopedic device makers made lucrative payments to U.S. physicians  between 2002 and 2006 as a way to encourage doctors to favor their products. Stryker Orthopedics cooperated with prosecutors and escaped a fine, but agreed to federal monitoring for 18 months. The other companies, Zimmer Holdings Inc., Depuy (Johnson and Johnson subsidiary), Biomet Inc. and Smith & Nephew Inc. agreed to a $311 million settlement with the Justice Department and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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