Senate questions device maker payments to surgeons

Last year, five makers of orthopedic implants paid more than $221 million to surgeon consultants--and some Senate members want to know why. Today, the Senate Special Committee on Aging is holding a hearing to discuss the practice of paying surgeons such consulting fees. This comes as part of a larger effort by the committee's chairman, Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI), who's filed legislation that would require device makers and drug companies to disclose consulting payments.

The hearing comes on the heels of antikickback settlements by Zimmer Holdings, Biomet, Stryker Corp., Smith & Nephew and DePuy Orthopedics. The companies agreed late last year to disclose consulting payment levels in exchange for a pass on allegations that they violated antikickback laws by paying doctors to use their products exclusively. The Senate will have a lot to chew on with just the information that these companies have already disclosed. Not only did they pay $221 million out to surgeons in 2007, they paid out more than $800 million between 2002 and 2006, investigators found.

To get more details on the investigation, including consulting business arrangements:
- read this Wall Street Journal article

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