Device makers settle with prosecutors

Five medical device makers are crying uncle to avoid federal prosecution in a kickback case. To induce surgeons to use their orthopedic implants, the companies allegedly forked over tens, even hundreds, of thousands a year in consulting fees, trips, and other perks. Zimmer Holdings, Johnson & Johnson's DuPuy Orthopedics, Smith & Nephew, and Biomet will pay a total of about $310 million and submit to government monitoring and other reforms. Stryker, which cooperated with prosecutors early on, won't pay any civil settlement, but it has agreed to the reforms.

This doctor-payment deal is just the latest in a series of settlements, prosecutions, investigations and the like. The "reforms" basically entail doctors disclosing any "consulting deals" to their patients. Legislation now pending in Congress would require companies to fess up to any doctor payments. So we may soon see a lot more sunshine in this previously murky area.

- read the article in the Los Angeles Times