Government plans investigation of devicemaker kickbacks to surgeons

Federal health officials and prosecutors are mounting an investigation designed to identify doctors how accept kickbacks from drug and devicemakers for using their products. The investigation focuses on some doctors accused of clear-cut wrongdoing, but is expected to cause physicians industry-wide to take a hard look at their relationships with industry.

Within a few months, officials will file civil and criminal charges against several surgeons whom they allege demanded high-ticket consulting agreements from devicemakers in return for using their products. Doctors who are convicted in these cases could face jail time, fines, the loss of their licenses for at least a short period and exclusion from Medicare and Medicaid participation.

The new investigation follows an intensifying campaign against drug and device companies that may have engaged in illegal marketing tactics, which includes much larger fines than in the past. For example, in January, Eli Lilly announced that it would pay a record $1.4 billion to settle federal criminal charges that it marketed anti-psychotic med Zyprexa illegally. Pfizer, meanwhile, was fined $2.3 billion over charges of marketing painkiller Bextra illegally.

To learn more about the investigation:
- read this piece in The New York Times

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