Spine Consultant Receives $20 Million Plus in Compensation from Medtronic

A prominent University of Wisconsin spine researcher, surgeon, and perhaps most significantly, Medtronic consultant, was paid more than $20 million by Medtronic which just happens to be one of the world’s foremost manufacturers of spinal medical devices.
The revelation is creating a tsunami of conflict of interest in the industry as well as on Capitol Hill. Thomas Zdeblick, the Wisconsin surgeon, was receiving the Medtronic payments for his work in promoting and developing the spinal products. The massive payments spanning the four years from 2003-2007 went far beyond what had been initially reported to the University of Wisconsin. The school, like all other schools receiving federal funding for research, is required by law to monitor its researchers’ potential conflicts of interest.
One of the more troubling aspects of this case involves the doctor’s duplicity. In each of the last five years he has told the University of Wisconsin that Medtronic payments were approximately $20,000. That’s a far, far cry from $20,000,000!
US Senator Charles Grassley has stated that Wisconsin’s disclosure rules are insufficient and need to be reformed. Robert Golden, dean of the University of Wisconsin’s medical school, agrees with Grassley and has noted that most states have similar disclosure laws.
What is clear and transparent is that each instance that such conflictual relationship is revealed to the public, the erosion of public trust in the healthcare system grows. It needs to be fixed sooner rather than later.