Federal health officials and prosecutors, frustrated that they have been unable to stop illegal kickbacks to doctors from drug and device companies, are investigating doctors who take money for using these products.
For years, prosecutors rarely pursued doctors because they believed that juries would sympathize with respected clinicians. But within a few months, officials plan to file civil and criminal charges against a number of surgeons who they say demanded profitable consulting agreements from device makers in exchange for using their products.
“What we need to do is make examples of a couple of doctors so that their colleagues see that this isn’t worth it,” said Lewis Morris, chief counsel to the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services. “We want to send the message to the physician community — particularly surgeons — that you can’t do this.”
The move against doctors is part of a diverse campaign to curb industry marketing tactics that enrich doctors but increase health care costs and sometimes endanger patients. Taken together, the new measures are likely to transform the relationship between medicine and industry.
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