Medtronic Inc. announced this week that it would voluntarily release how much it pays doctors in consulting fees -- the largest such company to do so.
"Through greater transparency about the nature of these relationships, we will help people better understand how important they are to developing life-saving and enhancing products for patients,'' Medtronic CEO Bill Hawkins said in a statement.
Not everyone is impressed, since the disclosure won't start for another two years.
Writing on blog.bioethics.net, Summer Johnson calls it Ethics: The Phased In Plan
Slow down there, Speed Racer! Don't go disclosing those dollar figures too quickly now! You wouldn't want to allow your company a whole two years to change your consulting amounts as to allow your company time to appear as though you didn't previously give massive amounts of cash to physicians who used and implanted your medical devices over those who did not, would you?
Call me cynical, but any company really committed to making these disclosures would do so immediately and open their books now and put them out into the sunshine for all to see. Others might say, "Better late than never." But I'm not so sure. It seems like a tactic to buy time and to create the appearance of not buying off doctors to me.
It's as though they said, "We planned to be come ethical....later."
Medtronic says the payments have included education and training for doctors, royalties for inventions, clinical trial design and advice on improving the design and safety of products.
According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, "The company's alleged largess involving gifts, trips and lucrative payments to doctors, particularly those who work with its spine business, have been detailed in several whistle-blower lawsuits."