In its insatiable quest to maximize its profits – even if people have to sicken and die – it seems there is no limit to how far Big Pharma will go.
According to a report issued by the Archives of Internal Medicine dated 24 October, five manufacturers of artificial hip and knee implants have been essentially bribing doctors to give preference to their products. In 2007, Biomet Inc., Smith and Nephew, Stryker Corporation, Zimmer Holdings (currently the target of mass tort action in Canada) and DePuy paid out almost $200 million to nearly 940 orthopedic surgeons as "kickbacks" to encourage the use of their devices. That year, the U.S. Department of Justice sued the companies over the issue.
The plaintiffs settled out of court, agreeing to pay $311 million in fines and provide more transparency, while Federal prosecutors agreed to "defer" criminal charges (another advantage of being a corporate person as opposed to a natural person – the latter cannot buy his or her way out of criminal charges). The industry then cut back on the number of doctors receiving payments – but the amounts actually increased to nearly $230 million. Of course, $109 million was spent on "royalty buyouts" from Zimmer. Nonetheless, one out of every 25 orthepedic surgeons in the U.S. were paid for "consulting" or contributing to the development of a product, including R&D.
A researcher at Emory University was quoted in Bloomberg as saying that "we want to reward people for innovation and ingenuity and participation in technology development...[but] need to manage the potential conflicts of interest that arise from these financial relationships.” In the same article, Biomet's V.P. for public affairs said "contributions that result from such collaborations add tremendous value to the health of patients and to the economics of the health-care system," adding that his company "continues to work in an ethical and compliant fashion."
Nonetheless, if someone offered you a great deal of money to use and promote his/her product – or even simply took you out to a fancy three-martini lunch at a five-star restuarant periodically – what would you do?
It is telling that these corporations are willing to spend so much money on bribes – and risk having to pay out legal settlements when these devices injure people. It tells you just how huge the profits are. $300 million is chump change to these people.
The real crime – the virtual cancer that is enriching these vampires while literally killing 45,000 Americans every year – is intimately tied to the fact that the U.S. health care "system" is nothing more than a profit center, and the people it reputedly "serves" are no more than commodities. The only real solution is to put these corporations to death (by revoking their charters), criminalize the profit motive in health care and medicine, and join the rest of the industrial world in making access to health care a human right.
Sadly, we are a long, long way from that...
Cortez, Michelle. "Hip-Device Makers Cut Doctor Consulting Pay After Settlement." Bloomberg Businessweek, 24 Oct 2011
Hockenberry, J.M. et. al. "Financial Payments by Orthopedic Device Makers to Orthopedic Surgeons." Archives of Internal Medicine, vol. 171 no. 19 (24 October 2011).
Learn more about DePuy Hip Replacement