Sunday, March 8, 2009

Is the DOJ ready to proceed?

On March 3rd, 2009 the NY Times reported that the DOJ is ready to bring civil and criminal charges against "surgeons" that have taken illegal inducements from companies in the device and pharmaceutical industries. The prosecutor that will overlook these proceedings believes that it is time to convict and throw some of these offenders into jail and set a precedent so that many of the organizations in our industry (NASS, AANS and CNS) establish some transparency and guidelines. Those of us that had concerns in the past know that this will be a day (if it happens) of reckoning for the Spine Industry. Spineblogger knows that many of you, including myself, are not adverse to surgeons being compensated for legitimate contributions to product development. In addition, most of us believe in a free-market economy where companies should pay inventors an equitable royalty or override for their technology. The problem is how do we police ourselves as an industry? Will any of the mandates that NASS, AANS or CNS be enforced or is this just "lip service?" Let's be realistic, organizations like AdvaMed are a joke! If there is no oversight established by NASS, will it be a matter of time before the Federal Government steps in. The challenge that exists for all parties involved is to identify what is fair and equitable compensation? Legislation must be enacted that defines what a Consulting Agreement really is? Does the industry need a standard agreement? There must be a value placed on the different contributions based on the time and effort of the consultant. What type of honorarium should a surgeon be paid for a speaking engagement? Is there a difference between a sales and marketing presentation, an educational forum or a true clinical presentation? Should distributors act as brokers for their customers? Remember, it's not just the surgeons and companies that are culpable for what has grown to be an industry malaise. And, how do those relationships affect your ability to sell your products in the open-market. Many of you have been approached by surgeons asking if you are interested in using their clinical skills as a consultant and many distributors have approached surgeons asking if they are interested in working as a consultant to win over their business. That's why salespeople don't sell anymore (a topic for a different day). The fact remains, this is a problem that is not going away. Until specific guidelines are put into effect, the industry will be a target of reform. The bigger question that needs to be addressed is; Are we just a by-product of what's brought this once and great country of ours down? GREED! Spineblogger wants to know what you think!

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