Artificial hip makers pay less to surgeons after settling lawsuit

A 2007 lawsuit charging manufacturers of artificial hips with providing kickbacks to orthopedic surgeons for using their products, has resulted in fewer payments to surgeons the year following the lawsuit, according to a report released today by the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Researchers reviewed data from Biomet Inc., Johnson & Johnson’s DePuy unit, Smith & Nephew Plc, Stryler Corp, and Zimmer Holdings Inc. for the years 2007 and 2008. They found that a total of 939 orthopedic surgeons received $198 million from the medical device companies in 2007. A year later, 568 payments were made worth $119 million, plus $109 million in royalty buyouts from Zimmer.

About 1,000 of the 25,000 orthopedic surgeons in the United States received money for consulting, royalities on products they helped develop, research, and clinical study work.

The payments bring up conflict of interest concerns, with some critics questioning if doctors receive payments for using devices, are they more likely to ignore safety concerns with those devices.

DePuy Orthopaedics, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, and one of the companies named in the lawsuit, is currently embroiled in one of the largest medical device failures. Its DePuy ASR XL hip replacement and resurfacing systems were recalled last year after alarmingly high failure rates. The recall affects an estimated 93,000 people worldwide.

The 2007 lawsuit against the hip implant manufacturers was settled after the companies agreed to pay $311 million. The settlement also allowed criminal charges against the companies to be deferred. However, the manufacturers are now required to disclose all their consulting agreements with doctors, put the payment amounts on their corporate websites, and allow federal monitors to oversee their actions.

Source: Archives of Internal Medicine