Feds accuse device makers of "buying" doctors

The largest U.S. makers of artificial knees and hips are facing an investigation by federal prosecutors, who say that the companies illegally paid off surgeons with vacations, gifts and no-show consulting jobs in an effort to win their business. Manufacturers targeted include Johnson & Johnson subsidiary DePuy Orthopaedics, Zimmer Holdings, Biomet, Stryker and Smith & Nephew. Federal prosecutors suggest that such payments constitute a kickback, as they're provided solely to buy surgeons' business. Most of these companies are close to settling with federal authorities, other than DePuy Orthopaedics, which has pushed back in talks. Observers expect settlements, which would be paid to Medicare, to hit as much as a half-billion dollars. Meanwhile, medical societies continue to tighten up their ethical guidelines regarding payoffs from medical device makers.

To get more background on the investigation:
- read this Newark Star Ledger article