The Medtronic Scandal

In August 2010, John Farber, a reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, wrote an article about how a medical device called Infuse, used for spinal surgeries, “went from revolutionary advance [2002] to public health alert [2008].” Bad side effects were common when Infuse was used, far more common than when it wasn’t used. Infuse is a hugely profitable product of Medtronic, the largest medical device company in the United States.

How did the high rate of bad side effects go unnoticed? Farber went on to find that there were unreported conflicts of interest in the journal articles about Infuse. The authors of the articles had received (before and after publication of the articles) large payments from Medtronic, on the order of $5 million per person. The articles themselves greatly underreported side effects. Moreover,

Evidence has accumulated suggesting that the superior clinical results reported by doctors with financial ties to Medtronic have not been replicated when the device was used by doctors who receive no payments from Medtronic.

A whole issue of The Spine Journal has been devoted to the problem and a Senate committee is investigating.

Thanks to Zachary Hamaker.

2 Replies to “The Medtronic Scandal”

  1. When I started reading about statins, the first thing that struck me was the systematic suppression of evidence about side-effects: lies, in other words, but lies of a specific sort.

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