Medtronic CEO defends paid physician consulting contracts

Lately, medical device companies and pharmaceutical giants have been taking a lot of heat for their relationships with doctors. Critics suggest that it's seldom, if ever, a good idea for doctors to get paid for collaborating with such companies, as the payments essentially come down to a kickback in most cases.

But at the annual shareholder meeting of devicemaker Medtronic Inc., there was no hint of penitence. Instead, CEO Bill Hawkins defended the company's history of working with doctors, arguing that doing so helps improve devices and commercialize inventions.

Hawkins told the meeting that most of the money Medtronic pays doctors is for royalties proceeding from their inventions, but that the company does engage doctors in "service arrangements" under which they offer advice on improving products or training doctors. He contends that Medtronic monitors such relationships closely to avoid any conflicts of interest.

Medtronic is on record as supporting legislation that would disclose a consulting relationship between drug- and devicemakers, and has said that the company plans to post data on its consulting agreements on its website next year.

To learn more about Medtronic's position:
- read this Minneapolis Star-Tribune piece

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