Republican Senator Charles Grassley has been all over the medical device industry for years. Why just a month ago he called out the University of Wisconsin in the Zdeblick-Medtronic debacle.
“I am concerned that Wisconsin’s reporting requirements do not go far enough to fully capture a physician’s potential conflict of interest,” he said a moment after revealing the surgeon had pocketed $19 million, most of it undisclosed from Medtronic, the nation’s largest spinal device producer.
That was quite a performance, but now Grassley is movin’ in for serious carcass. Last week, he and Herb Kohl, who ironically is a cheesehead, reintroduced legislation that would require device makers and Big Pharma to list all financial ties with physicians on a .gov Web site.
The public is clamoring for transparency,” Kohl said of the Physician Payments Sunshine Act.
And other parts of the government are providing precision support for the senators on multiple fronts.
In 2007 for example, the Justice Department forced knee and hip makers to accept its oversight as a quid pro quo for not looking further into allegations they bribed physicians to use their stuff.
In fact Justice already requires knee and hip makers to disclose all payments to physicians on corporate Web sites and has capped per-day consulting payouts to physicians at a measly $500.
Even some hospital systems are getting into the act. Kaiser Permanente for example does not permit its physicians to accept income from the private sector and requires that device makers compete for contracts on price, perish the thought.