Skeptic News: Medtronic in journal integrity scandal

From: The Australian

MARKETING staff of medical device giant Medtronic were secretly involved in drafting and editing favourable medical journal articles about the company’s lucrative back surgery product, while the company paid millions to the surgeons whose names lent weight to the studies, documents from a US Senate investigation reveal.

The company’s undisclosed manipulation of information about its genetically engineered spine surgery product, Infuse, included overstating its benefits and downplaying concerns about serious complications.

Over the course of 15 years, Medtronic paid $210 million to a group of 13 doctors and two corporations linked to doctors, including more than $34 million to University of Wisconsin orthopaedic surgeon Thomas Zdeblick, who co-authored a series of papers about the product.

The vast majority of the payments to the doctors were for royalties. The remainder was for consulting work.

The investigation by the Senate Committee on Finance was prompted in part by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/MedPage Today reports on Medtronic. Those stories, which are part of the ongoing Side Effects series, show how the practice of medicine has been corrupted by conflicts of interest involving doctors, drug and device companies and medical journals.

The Senate report, which was due to be released yesterday, details how Medtronic employees, including some working in the company’s marketing department, secretly helped academic physician authors produce 11 papers between 2002 and 2009. Such ghost-writing has been condemned as a breach of integrity and transparency because doctors and patients rely on information in those articles to make medical decisions.

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