Medtronic divulges it paid docs over $15.7 million in royalties, consulting fees

Well ahead of the 2013 requirement, medical-devicemaker Medtronic Inc., has for the first time revealed how much it has paid U.S., doctors in royalties and consulting fees, a move Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.)--a sponsor of the recently passed doctor-disclosure law--praised as "a voluntary decision to stay ahead of the transparency curve."

The more than $15.7 million the recently embattled company doled out in the fourth quarter breaks down as follows:

  • $14.2 million to orthopedic specialists and orthopedic surgeons, $13.9 million of which took the form of royalty payments for a wide range of doctors' surgical inventions.
  • $512,000 to vascular and cardiac specialists.
  • $495,000 to heart-rhythm doctors.
  • $473,000 to neurosurgeons and neurologists.

In addition, the company paid 227 doctors and doctor groups consulting or royalty payments exceeding an aggregate $5,000 in the first quarter. Lower amounts weren't reported, nor were payments to foreign doctors or to doctors doing clinical studies.

Medtronic Chairman and Chief Executive Bill Hawkins noted in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that although his company is doing away with "general" consultancies in favor of more detailed arrangements, collaboration with outside medical experts will maintain an important role in the medical-device field.

"I'm hard-pressed to think of any innovation we've had that didn't come from Medtronic working with physicians," Hawkins said. He added that in revising the company's policies, "My aim is to raise the bar for the industry." In making the revisions, he added, "there were some relationships that did not make sense, and we've eliminated them."

This year's payment information will be available on the company's website beginning today and will be updated every quarter going forward, Hawkins said. D. Cameron Findlay, Medtronic's senior vice president and general counsel, told the newspaper that part of the company's reason for making the information available was "so that a patient can decide on doing business with a given doctor."

Medtronic's disclosure comes shortly after the company announced fourth-quarter profits of $954 million, an eightfold year-over-year surge attributed largely to its competitor, Boston Scientific Corp., having to recall many of its defibrillators during a one-month suspension, reports the Boston Globe.

To learn more:
- read this article in The Wall Street Journal
- see this piece in The Boston Globe