University researcher received $19M from Medtronic

Senator Charles Grassley is continuing to dig deep into medical device maker Medtronic's financial dealings with researchers and doctors. According to a letter the Senator sent to the University of Wisconsin's president, Thomas Zdeblick--a surgeon and researcher at the university--received more than $19 million in largely undisclosed payments from Medtronic to develop and promote the company's spine products.

Universities are required to report their researchers' financial ties to the drug industry or they risk losing federal funding. According to Grassley, Zdeblick reported his earnings according to school policies, but didn't disclose exactly how much. Although Zdeblick received $19 million from Medtronic between 2003 and 2007, each year the researcher told the university that he received $20,000 or more, and reported receiving $40,000 or more for one of those years. "More" actually amounted to $2.6 million to $4.6 million in royalty and consulting payments per year, according to the Wall Street Journal.

This isn't the first time Medtronic has been under the spotlight for questionable financial dealings. In 2006, a whistleblower accused Medtronic of creating sham contracts to cover up kickbacks the company paid to doctors, including Zdeblick, to promote its products.

Both Zdeblick and Medtronic tell WSJ that their relationship was proper and followed disclosure and ethics guidelines.

- read the WSJ article for more