Lawsuits Allege Some Medical Device Companies Gave Kickbacks To Surgeons

Whistleblowers allege in lawsuits unsealed Wednesday that some medical device companies gave kickbacks to heart surgeons to get the doctors to use their products to treat a heart condition, The Wall Street Journal reports.

"The lawsuits, filed in federal district court in Houston, name at least four companies whose products are among those used in surgery to treat the heart condition (called atrial filrillation). They are AtriCure Inc., Medtronic Inc., St. Jude Medical Inc. and Boston Scientific Corp."

"The suits, originally filed in 2007 but recently unsealed by a Texas federal judge, allege that a 'fraudulent marketing and inducement campaign' involving kickbacks to doctors and hospitals resulted in excessive charges to the Medicare insurance program."

"The case against Boston Scientific was filed by a former saleswoman who says she was fired after complaining about illegal practices at the company." One of the plaintiffs say the companies marketed the tools as surgical ablation equipment even though it wasn't approved by the Food and Drug Administration (Burton and Armstrong, 7/16).

"These off-label uses were more expensive than those sanctioned by the FDA, and resulted in the government's Medicare program being overbilled, according to the documents," The Associated Press/Houston Chronicle reports: "The whistleblower also alleges that the companies 'offered the surgeons kickbacks in the form of free advertising, press, and referral services to bring in more patients and business'" (Perrone, 7/15).

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from more than 300 news organizations. The full summary of the day's news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.