Medtronic, a maker of spinal implants and bone grafts used by orthopedic surgeons, finds itself smack in the middle of a second False Claims Act suit arising out of the company’s alleged practice of rewarding physicians who use Medtronic’s products with glitzy expense-paid vacations that sound more like prizes from a Hollywood game show than the educational conferences they pretend to be.
The first suit was brought against the company back in 2006, and included allegations that Medtronic encouraged surgeons to use Medtronic products by paying for the doctors’ entertainment—including ring-side seats at strip clubs, complete with lap dances. Medtronic paid a huge sum to resolve those claims, though it admitted no wrongdoing.
Now former Medtronic employees have filed a second whistle blower action. This suit targets the physicians who participated in Medtronic’s exotic travel “conferences” in destinations such as Alaska, Cancun and New Orleans. The False Claims Act suit alleges that over 100 spine physicians received Medicare payments to which they were not entitled and took kickbacks from Medtronic for using the company’s devices. The former employees claim that Medtronic paid the surgeons a “consulting fee” that was directly proportionate to the number of spinal implant devices purchased by each physician.
Under the Qui Tam provision of the U.S. False Claims Act, a private citizen may institute a claim for fraud on the government’s behalf and share in any money received.
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