Spinal Implants on the Rise: Are They Unnecessary?
Surgeons Get Back-Breaking Money for Using Promoted Products
The number of spinal fusion surgeries conducted in the United States is on the rise, and the market for devices necessary for the operation is getting competitive. This competition has led experts to worry that surgeons are pushing procedures and devices on patients who may not need them.
Certain companies are reportedly muscling in on hospitals by giving surgeons generous payments for the promotion of their products. NuVasive and Medtronic, two big producers of these devices, are coming under fire from medical ethicists claiming that the companies are creating conflicts of interest for surgeons. Reports of payments to surgeons from these manufacturers—ranging from $126,000-$767,000—worry ethicists that doctors are being "bought" as advertisers for these devices. Both NuVasive and Medtronic claim that the payments are for "consulting, teaching, and helping design dozens of device systems," adding that no surgeon is paid a commission per implant.
Those who worry will be happy to hear that in September, the Physician Payment Sunshine Act will publicly release information about corporate funds going to doctors that exceed ten dollars. Until then, however, exact sales of these devices and the profits from them remain unknown.
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