Midei: Abbott sales reps slipped into hospital's cath lab

Sworn testimony from Dr. Mark Midei in the lawsuit that alleges he implanted unnecessary stents, raises new questions about whether salespeople are getting too "chummy" with physicians and influencing their product purchase decisions.

In the latest news related to the stent doctor lawsuit, the Baltimore Sun reports that Midei revealed that Abbott Laboratories salespeople flouted hospital rules and frequently were allowed into a cardiac treatment room at St. Joseph Medical Center during patient procedures.

As Midei noted, Abbott reps "became friends with the technologists and the nurses and, you know, they sort of find ways into the cath lab and get around the rules." Although the stent maker's salespeople might see some of the cases, they didn't play a role in selecting stents or choosing cases ripe for stenting, he said.

If medical device reps are in a cath lab, "they can have a subtle-and not so subtle-influence," Steven E. Nissen, chief of cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic told the Sun.

Although industry reps say regular interaction between physicians and salespeople makes it possible to improve medical technology and healthcare, even they say that medical device makers cultivate "undeniably close" relationships with doctors.

What's more, a study in the American Journal of Cardiology showed that the presence of salespeople in treatment rooms significantly raised the chance that a company's product would be used.

Most hospitals limit vendors' access to doctors, according to Dr. Mark Turco, an interventional cardiologist and spokesman for the Society for Cardiac Angiography and Interventions.

Since 2006, St. Joseph's vendor policy has limited visits to planned appointments, which are not sales calls, during regular business hours to support the technology and address clinical usage concerns or questions. Last year, the hospital hired a corporate responsibility officer who oversees all of the facility's vendor relationships.

To learn more:
- read the Baltimore Sun article