Medtronic reveals payments to docs

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Medtronic's first public disclosure includes about $15.7 million in payments to doctors, mostly for royalties on inventions, made during the first three months of the year.

The information comes ahead of mandatory federal reporting requirements, which start in March 2013. According to Medtronic, the company paid fees to 227 physicians during the quarter, and the totals for each of the major categories listed were as follows:

  • Royalties: $13.9 million
  • Training and education: $1.3 million
  • Advisory services: $443,000
  • Product development/R&D: $37,000

The Wall Street Journal, which broke the story, also noted that, of those amounts, $14.2 million was paid to orthopedic physicians, another $512,000 to vascular and cardiac specialists, $495,000 to heart-rhythm doctors and $473,000 to neurosurgeons and neurologists. The firm also revised its policies relating to physician collaboration, capping the annual payments that can be made to individual physicians for providing services.

While Medtronic's report is designed to shed light on industry collaborations that can pose conflicts of interest, it can be difficult to discern whether payments, which range into the millions of dollars, are legitimate royalties or inducements to sell products, the Journal noted.

The transparency report only includes payments exceeding $5,000, and non-disclosure clauses prevent the company from revealing payment information on 21 of its intellectual property/royalty agreements. (Medtronic says it's working to be able to include all royalty payments in its transparency reporting by May 2011.) The device maker says it will update the physician registry quarterly.

Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Aging Committee and a principal architect of the physician payment disclosure provisions in the healthcare bill, praised Medtronic's disclosure, saying the company is staying “ahead of the transparency curve.”

Medtronic follows other life-sci firms in releasing data on payments to doctors. Among device companies, that list includes Johnson & Johnson and Edwards Lifesciences, while on the pharma side, Pfizer and Merck report physician compensation as well.
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