In a new twist on the recurring story of the pharmaceutical and medical device industry climbing closely into bed with doctors, the New York Times reported about Dr. Timothy Kuklo, who allegedly forged names of co-researchers on an article he published. The journal article falsified research done at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and stated a new bone-growth product sold by Medtronic (Infuse™) performed strikingly better than the traditional bone grafting technique that was currently being used. Dr. Kuklo's research and travel was sponsored by Medtronic. The amount he was paid as a consultant has not been disclosed, nor did he disclose the relationship when he submitted his article for publication.
The unholy relationships that physicians have with pharmaceutical companies and medical devise manufacturers is having a bright light shined on it through the efforts of Senator Charles Grassley, who has been investigating these lucrative relationships.
There have been a number of shocking incidents where doctors are paid large consulting fees and they then publish results of studies that are sponsored by the company, or they speak at medical symposiums where they have the ability to influence the profession to use the drug or device. These relationships are supposed to be disclosed, but we have found out, they are often hidden, as was this bogus research.
I am particularly shocked by the relationships between orthopedic device companies and orthopedic surgeons. I saw a long list of the payments that were disclosed by multiple companies (mainly total joint replacements) to surgeons across the country. Some of these "consulting" fees were in the millions and several pages of names received upward of $300,000 to a $million. Mind you, this is on top of their every day practice. The practice is so pervasive that I am sure they all feel quite justified in taking the money. I recognized some of the names from my own medical colleagues.
Our health care system is badly broken and it will take a lot to change the paradigm and get these pigs out of the trough. It is no wonder many physicians want change...but not too much change.