A New Jersey-based medical technology company has just been slapped hard in a settlement reached with the U.S. Department of Justice. C.R. Bard Inc. — headquartered in Murray Hill — will pay out more than $50 million to settle charges that it violated the federal anti-kickback law by providing various forms of remuneration to doctors and medical facilities in exchange for them purchasing its radiation treatment for prostate cancer.
The agreement calls for Bard to pay $48 million to settle false claims and an additional $2.2 million in order to avoid criminal prosecution.
Although no doctors were charged in the case, commentators note that it raises questions — many of them troublesome — concerning close links between physicians and both drug and medical device manufacturers regarding conflict of interest. In especially egregious situations, that interaction can result in acts of medical malpractice and doctor error when a physician is induced through personal loyalty or owing to monetary payments to order drugs and treatments that are not in a patient’s best interests and that may even be harmful.
That is, foremost, the stated concern of regulators and medical facility administrators who seek to ensure that there is no taint in any relationship existing between medical staff members and marketing agents of such companies.
The Bard situation and outcome has been closely scrutinized, with a director of one university medical facility saying that what transpired between Bard sales representatives and some doctors and hospitals serves “as a teachable moment” in clarifying and avoiding the types of actions that might reasonably be perceived as conflicts of interest.
The bottom line, that official notes, is for doctors and medical facilities to interact with device and pharma makers in such an open and overseen way that impropriety can never be alleged.
Source: Atlantic Information Services, Inc., “Bard settlement provides a ‘teachable moment’ on hospital conflicts of interest,” Nina Youngstrom, May 20, 2013