Researcher who Promoted Medtronic Infuse Received $34 Million from Company, Senate Investigation Reveals

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Researcher who Promoted Medtronic Infuse Received $34 Million from Company, Senate Investigation RevealsOverview: Financial ties between Medtronic and researchers have raised serious suspicions about the integrity of industry-funded research. A recent investigation by the United States Senate Finance Committee revealed that one doctors, Thomas Zdeblick, MD of the University of Wisconsin, received a total of $34 million from Medtronic. The orthopedic surgeon had authored studies promoting Infuse Bone Graft without disclosing any financial relationship with the manufacturer of the product.

  • Medtronic paid one orthopedic surgeon $34 million from 1996 to present in royalties and consulting fees
  • Dr. Thomas Zdeblick co-authored at least two studies that were secretly edited by Medtronic employees, according to a report by the United States Senate Finance Committee; financial ties were never disclosed in the published studies promoting Infuse
  • Medtronic is accused of paying researchers to hide serious side effects associated with Infuse

Product: Medtronic Infuse Bone Graft

Manufacturer: Medtronic, Inc.

Side Effects & Complications

  • Cancer
  • Difficulty breathing, swallowing
  • Uncontrolled bone growth
  • Nerve injury
  • Male sterility
  • Retrograde ejaculation

Financial Ties Not Disclosed to the Public

The Senate investigation found that Medtronic has paid a group of researchers $210 million in royalties and consulting fees over the past 14 years. Dr. Thomas Zdeblick, was the highest paid among the group, receiving a total of $34 million from Medtronic since 1996, reports MedPage Today. The Senate report also found that Medtronic employees had helped edit and revise at least 11 medical journals about Infuse; Zdeblick has co-authored two of these studies, none of which mentioned the financial relationship between the researchers and Medtronic. The so-called “ghostwriting” has called the integrity of the research. Medtronic itself has accused of paying the researchers to hide side effects associated with the product. The two studies co-authored by Zdeblick were published the Journal of Spinal Disorders & Techniques, where Zdeblick has served as editor-in-chief for the past 10 years.

A 2009 investigation by the Journal Sentinel/MedPage Today raised suspicions about Zdeblick’s influence in the studies, noting that positive data about Infuse was often published under his watch.

Investigation Prompted by Spine Journal Report                                              

The Senate investigation was at least partially influenced by a special edition of the Spine Journal. In June, the publication questioned why serious side effects, such as male sterility, cancer, infections, pain and difficulty breathing were not mentioned in the industry-funded researchers. The research, led by editor-in-chief Dr. Eugene Carragee, asserted that Infuse researchers were aware of these side effects but did not report them in their papers. In commenting on Zdeblick’s studies, Carragee told MedPage Today that “When he writes the papers it all goes out the window…It looks terrible.”