Medtronic discloses $15.7M in physician payments

Medtronic (NYSE:MDT) is now posting annual physician payments that exceed $5,000 on its website as part of a commitment to combat perceived conflict of interest. The disclosure shows that during the first quarter, the company paid royalties and consulting fees to more than 200 doctors, including 13 in Minnesota, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. The total: about $15.7 million, with one doctor in Germantown, TN, getting just under $4 million in product-related royalties.

Some have questioned whether such payments are proper, but medical device companies say paid relationships are crucial to the safety and improvement of medical devices. Doctors say the money doesn't compromise their medical judgment, the Pioneer Press notes.

Medtronic says in a statement that the actions follow on its commitment to the voluntary, quarterly disclosure of physician-services compensation. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-WI, Chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, praised the company's move, "As part of health reform, Congress took a major step forward in strengthening the physician-patient relationship, by making public all potential conflicts of interest. In advance of upcoming federal disclosure requirements, I appreciate Medtronic's voluntary decision to stay ahead of the transparency curve."

Similar moves to be more transparent have been made by Big Pharma companies like Pfizer (NYSE: PFE).  The drug giant paid more than more than 4,500 healthcare professionals a total $35 million in the last half of 2009 for helping develop and market drugs and educate their peers about the company's products. Johnson & Johnson and Edwards Lifesciences also have released such data, while Merck joins Pfizer, Eli Lilly and GlaxoSmithKline on the pharma side, Medical Marketing & Media notes.

- check out the Medtronic press release
- view the index here 
- see the Star Tribune's coverage
- read the MM&M story
- get more from the Pioneer Press

ALSO: Disclosure forms reveal Medtronic spent $1 million lobbying Congress in the first quarter of 2010. Details