August 4, 2023 — A whistleblower lawsuit alleges that Medtronic engaged in a bribery scheme at a veterans hospital in Kansas where doctors performed dangerous atherectomy procedures, according to a CNBC Investigation.
In 2017, a whistleblower lawsuit was filed by Tom Schroeder, a sales manager for Beckton Dickinson (BD), a medical device company that competes with Medtronic.
The case became unsealed at the end of 2022 when the government decided not to intervene, according to CNBC.
Schroeder claims that Medtronic “bribed hospital staff to purchase its devices over those of competitors and to purchase grossly excessive inventory,” according to the complaint.
The lawsuit was backed up by details from an investigation that began in 2018, when Rick Ament, a new medical director at the Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center, grew concerned when he noticed about $5 million dollars per year in excess costs.
“We were more expensive than, I believe it was, the top 10 hospitals in the VA combined,” Ament explained.
During the investigation, he traced the excess costs to purchases of Medtronic devices for artery-clearing atherectomies and other vascular procedures.
The review also found that evidence-based medicine had not been followed in the majority of patient cases that were reviewed.
Instead, doctors were using Medtronic devices to aggressively treat mild forms of artery disease that should have been left alone. There was also total disregard for established best practices.
Normally, only one or two devices would be used in an atherectomy — but in some patients, dozens of Medtronic devices were used.
In one visit, a doctor used 33 devices in one procedure — three atherectomy devices, nine stents and 21 balloons, according to ProPublica. In another procedure, 17 Medtronic devices were used to clear arteries on a single patient.
“Upon this discovery, Wichita VA leadership immediately notified the Office of Inspector General (OIG) and shut down interventional radiology procedures (April of 2018),” according to an internal investigation by the VA.
Later in the year, when the VA resumed these procedures, they decided to no longer perform any atherectomy procedures in which devices were inserted into the lower leg arteries via catheters.
The whistleblower lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas — UNITED STATES of America EX REL. Thomas SCHROEDER, Relator, v. MEDTRONIC, INC., et al., Defendants — Case No. 17-2060-DDC-KGG.
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