Medtronic’s spinal devices unit has been in bunker mode since the FDA alerted surgeons about serious complications associated with off-label use of its products. Yesterday, the medical device giant received more bad news when sealed documents from a 2002 lawsuit were leaked to the Wall Street Journal.
The suit was filed by a former Medtronic lawyer. It alleges that the spinal devices unit provided surgeons incentives to use its products. The incentives included entertainment at a Memphis strip club, fishing expeditions to Alaska, free rides on Mardi Gras parade floats and royalties on inventions they didn’t develop.
The federal government does not allow companies to provide incentives that encourage physicians to use products covered by Medicare and Medicaid.
The spinal devices unit is already under investigation by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) who wants to know whether incentives like the ones alleged in this lawsuit have driven widespread off-label use of Infuse, a growth factor that promotes healing following lower back surgery. Medtronic had refused to provide documents from the case to Sen. Grassley’s staff.
Medtronic denies engaging in improper behavior of any kind and added that it is “committed to reform and transparency in the industry.”