New Hip Exposes Conflicts Of Interests For Doctors

A baseball umpire's broken hip has shed light on doctors' conflicts of interest in recommending certain devices over others and the growth, despite efforts to rein it in, of such practices, Bloomberg Businessweek reports. "The government declared last year that it had overhauled the financial relationships between surgeons and the biggest makers of knees and hips, saying the threat of criminal prosecution for 'kickbacks' had forced them to slash payments to physicians." But compensation for doctors who use the certain knees and hips soon returned.

"Prosecutors in the New Jersey U.S. Attorney's Office, which headed the case, reported a 'satisfactory completion' in March 2009 of the probe of Biomet Corp., Johnson & Johnson’s DePuy unit, Smith & Nephew PLC, Zimmer Holdings Inc. and Stryker Corp. Payments in 2008 fell to $105 million from $272 million the year before, the Justice Department lawyers said. … The companies increased doctor compensation for 2008 to about $300 million, according to the data compiled by Bloomberg from reports posted on the device makers' websites. Fees for 2008 were delivered in 2009, the surgeons say." Financial ties between device makers and surgeons "help explain" why health costs rose at 2.5 times the rate of inflation during the last 10 years, Bloomberg Businessweek reports (Armstrong, 6/11).

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