The New York Times exposes another major pipeline between companies manufacturing drugs and medical devices and the wallets of doctor-researchers. Why don’t we just have the drug and medical device companies put all of the doctors on salary? It would make things simpler.
As she presented research results indicating that a new medical device was “an important breakthrough,” the doctor’s enthusiasm was clear. Less evident were some of the financial links between the researchers and the device’s maker.
Dr. Maria Rosa Costanzo, making her presentation at a March conference of cardiologists, said the study found that a $14,000 blood filtering device was better than intravenous diuretic drugs at removing excess fluid from patients with heart failure.
Dr. Costanzo did disclose to the audience that she was a paid consultant with stock in the device’s maker, a Minnesota company called CHF Solutions. But she omitted another potentially important detail: CHF Solutions was also one of the largest donors to the nonprofit research foundation that had overseen the study. The company contributed about $180,000 in 2004, according to the foundation’s federal filings.
Nor did she note that the nonprofit entity, the Midwest Heart Foundation, was in turn an arm of the thriving for-profit medical group outside of Chicago where Dr. Costanzo and more than 50 of her fellow doctors treat heart patients — in many cases using products and drugs made by CHF Solutions and other big donors to their charity. Although the CHF Solutions device has generally been slow to catch on, physicians at Dr. Costanzo’s medical group have treated many patients with the company’s filtration system.