The Case Albert Israel vs. Michael Burnam, M.D., Brad Burnam, and St. Jude (Case #LC085694) alleges that Dr. Burnam cut a backdoor deal with St. Jude to hire his son as a medical device salesman. What a coincidence? Could there be parallels between our industry and what goes on in that invasive cardiology industry? The alleged deal involved Dr. Burnam prescribing the St. Jude's defibrillator for his patients as a quid pro quo for his son's employment. We have never heard of anything like this existing in our industry, have we? TSB is sure if the DOJ really wanted to clean up one aspect of the spine and general orthopedic industry they wouldn't have to look any further. At least if the DOJ doesn't have the cohonies to throw some CEO's or ex-CEO's in jail, this could be a start. Burnam would receive commission points with a guarantee floor of $200,000 per year. The doctor would receive compensation for speaking engagements and "so-called" research products. Hmmmmmm, sounds familiar?
Unfortunately for Dr. Burnam, things got ugly when an amendment was filed with the court to amend the original complaint, asking for punitive damages when Dr. B prescribed the procedure that nearly killed Mr. Israel. The complaint alleges that Dr. B placed his own financial interest above the health and well-being of his patients. We've never heard of that in spine? How irresponsible was Dr. B? His own son was in the operating room during Mr. Israel's procedure.
What will hurt Dr. B is that a St. Jude sales rep, Mark House, was deposed and testified that St. Jude had complete knowledge of this fraud. Originally, St. Jude refused to hire L'il Brad Burnam for ethical reasons, and a conflict of interest. When Brad was hired by Boston Scientific, Dr. B stopped referring patients to St. Jude (never have had that happen) and funneled his patients to BS. In May of 2007, St. Jude began negotiating with Dr. B to hire L'il Brad away from BS in order to regain his business. The impetus for this decision was based on Dr. B's large pool of patients and particularly his involvement with the Los Angeles Jewish Home for the aging.
In order to hide the conflict, the contract did not include commission points for referrals by Dr. B. Instead, L'il Brad received commission points for the implanting surgeons regularly used by Dr. B, including Mr. Israel's surgeon. Upon hiring L'il Brad, it was reported that St. Jude realized a 40% increase in business in High Voltage products, including defibs. After Mr. Israel's near death, St. Jude transferred L'il Brad to a San Diego territory. Dr. B then threatened to hold back his business until L'il Brad was allowed to come back home to Mom and Dad in the San Fernando Valley. But it gets better, when Dr. B contacted Mark House, he asked him to lie by saying he (House), and not L'il Brad, was in the operating room when Mr. Israel almost died.
In retrospect, it can't get any better than this. The adjudication of this case could establish a future precedent for hiring surgeons children. Conflict of interest? TSB will let our readers decide. Not only do distributors broker surgeons, surgeons have long been brokering their business in exchange for companies hiring their children. You know what they say it's okay to lie, cheat and steal just don't get caught with your fingers in the cookie jar. TSB wants to know what our readers think?