Suit says Medtronic gave doctors plush gifts

Apparently, Medtronic really loves surgeons--so much so that it gave them lots of presents. The medical devicemaker allegedly gave doctors some very plush gifts for using its products, including sexy entertainment, trips to Alaska and patent royalties for inventions in which they had no part, according a lawsuit brought by a former Medtronic lawyer.

The suit targets not only Medtronic, but also 10 doctors, including surgeon Jeffrey Wang, now director of the University of California at Los Angeles's Comprehensive Spine Center.

The allegations are focused on Medtronic's spinal-devices unit, which has $3 billion in annual revenue. Among other things, the suit contends that the unit had sham consulting agreements with more than 100 surgeons who were strictly vehicles to funnel payoffs to them in exchange for their using the unit's products. Medtronic had previously agreed to pay $40 million to the federal government to settle related allegations.

The spinal-devices unit has already been hit with lawsuits from other former employees. Meanwhile, it's also being investigated by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), who's attempting to find out whether incentives like these have led to what is now common off-label use of Medtronic spine products.

To learn more about the lawsuit:
- read this Wall Street Journal piece (sub. req.)

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