Medical device kickback allegations keep coming

I don't know about you, but it's getting a little depressing--if not surprising-- to keep reading about kickback charges lodged against medical devicemakers. But the investigations, allegations and lawsuits just keep coming.

The latest comes today from the Wall Street Journal, which is reporting that former employees of a handful of medical device firms--including Medtronic Inc., Boston Scientific Corp., AtriCure and St. Jude Medical--paid kickbacks to heart surgeons to get doctors to use their products to treat atrial fibrillation. The suits, which were first filed in 2007 but just unsealed by a Texas judge, claim that the companies engaged in a fraudulent marketing campaign that gave kickbacks to doctors and hospitals, resulting in excessive charges to Medicare.

An unnamed former Boston Scientific saleswoman is the plaintiff in several of the cases, according to the Journal. The cases arise from an inquiry in Texas by the U.S. Department of Justice that has been ongoing for a while. (Boston Scientific, by the way, wants the public to know that it sold the business units that make the devices in 2006 and 2007.)

The products in question are used in a technique called surgical ablation, in which cardiac surgeons use radiofrequency-emitting and other devices to destroy sections of heart muscle, a technique which can correct the heart rhythm.

To learn more about these suits:
- read this Wall Street Journal article

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