Friday, October 29, 2010

DePuy Hips--Kickbacks, Deferred Prosecution and the role of Surgeons

Seal of the United States Department of JusticeImage via Wikipedia

In 2007, DePuy avoided criminal prosecution over financial inducements paid to surgeons to use their hip and knee products by signing a Deferred Prosecution Agreement and paying civil settlements to the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services of $84.7 million.

The Department of Justice alleged that DePuy routinely violated the anti-kickback statute by paying physicians to exclusively use their products.  In announcing the settlement, United States Attorney Christopher J. Christie stated "prior to our investigation, many orthopedic surgeons in this country made decisions predicated on how much money they could make--choosing which device to implant by going to the highest bidder."

The government alleged that these agreements were in place between 2002-2006, which happens to be when many of the now recalled DePuy ASR hips were implanted.  Government officials also stated that surgeons failed to disclose the payments to the hospitals where the surgeries were performed, and more importantly, to the patients the devices were installed.

As the DePuy litigation proceeds, both DePuy and some surgeons are going to have some difficult questions to answer.

Patients who return to the physicians who installed the recalled devices need to be aware these relationships exist, inquire of their physician as to whether or not they engaged in such kickback agreements and never let their physician influence them to sign releases allowing DePuy to obtain their medical records.
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