The federal investigation into kickbacks paid by device makers to hip and knee surgeons is now shifting to the docs themselves. After reachingsettlements with five hip and knee implant makers last year over payments, the HHS Office of Inspector General is focusing on doc who receive money as paid consultants, The New York Times reports.
“We are going to be looking at those soliciting kickbacks,” Lewis Morris, the OIG chief counsel told an audience of docs, device execs and investors earlier this month in San Francisco at a meeting of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. The same message has gone out to health care lawyers attending legal education seminars and, directly from Christopher Christie Jr., the US Attorney in Newark, who is overseeing the investigation.
Execs say Christie addressed sales meetings of the five device makers. He said, " 'I’ve dealt with the supply issue, now I need to deal with the demand issue,' " Ed Lipes, executive vp in charge of surgeon relationships at Stryker, told the Times. Although industry execs say they heard some docs have received subpoenas, none have been publicly identified. A spokesman for Christie's office declined to whether any docs had become targets of the investigation.
You may recall that the HHS OIG is likely to start requiring disclosure of consulting relationships with doctors as part of settlement agreements with drugmakers in the coming year (back story). The arrangement will likely mirror what several device makers are now doing.