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In June, we blogged about an orthopedic surgeon at Walter Reed Army Medical Center who fabricated data and forged researchers’ names in a study to show that the Medtronic bone-growth product Infuse performed “strikingly” better bone grafts than traditional techniques. The surgeon, Dr. Timothy R. Kuklo, was a paid Medtronic consultant.

Now, a Senate investigation, headed by Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R) of Iowa, into the financial ties between doctors and Medtronic has exposed another questionable doctor-company relationship.

Dr. David W. Polly Jr. urged members of a Senate panel in 2006 to continue paying for Defense Department medical research into combat-related injuries. But Dr. Polly did not disclose during his testimony that he was a Medtronic consultant and was billing the company $6,000 for his appearance, according to documents released Tuesday. Instead, he told lawmakers that he was representing a professional medical association of orthopedic surgeons, according to the documents. –New York Times

Dr. Polly, also a University of Minnesota medical professor, actually received some of the Defense Department funds to conduct animal testing on Infuse, the same Medtronic bone growth product Dr. Kuklo fabricated data about. Notably, Dr. Polly was the head of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center orthopedics department until 2003.

Between 2003 and 2007, Dr. Polly received more than $1.14 million in fees and expenses from Medtronic, those records show. (…) In late 2006, university officials allowed him to work on the Defense Department-financed study of Infuse. The medical school knew he was a company consultant, but under the school’s rules Dr. Polly had to acknowledge only that he received more than $10,000 annually. Medtronic paid him about $350,000 that year alone in expenses and fees, the records show. New York Times

Apparently, the University of Minnesota’s medical school ultimately allowed Polly to work on the Defense Department study despite his potential Medtronic bias because the study was looking at rats rather than people, and “because Dr. Polly had said that it was not of economic significance to the company.”

These details confirm that we absolutely must create a more effective, more concrete and universal system governing the way that doctor payments by drug and device companies are reported and taken into account. There needs to be a publicly accessible database disclosing the full and true amounts given yearly to every doctor who consults on the side. Payments to doctors in the form of perks and freebies need to stop altogether. Mandating accountability and transparency now will offset the future costs of fraudulent studies and biased recommendations.

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