Lawsuit: Medtronic perks wooed docs

What do a Memphis gentlemen's club, trips to Alaska and ill-gotten patent royalties have in common? They're all perks that Medtronic gave to doctors, according to a lawsuit brought by a former Medtronic lawyer. The incentives were handed out by the company's $3 billion spinal devices unit, which has already been under investigation for its physician relationships.

As you know, Sen. Charles Grassley has been probing off-label use of Medtronic's spine products, examining whether those unapproved uses were driven by incentives given to doctors. The FDA has warned that off-label use of a Medtronic bone graft has led to potentially life-threatening side effects in dozens of patients.

The allegations were made in a lawsuit, filed in 2002 but only recently--and partially--unsealed. A heavily redacted copy of the complaint is the only version publicly available. But the Wall Street Journal got an unredacted copy, which alleged that kickbacks were "pervasive" in the spinal unit.

Medtronic says that it's changed many business practices since that lawsuit was filed. The company says it's "committed to reform and transparency in the industry."

- read the Wall Street Journal story