Posted by Sarah Rubenstein
Public disclosures about financial ties between doctors and industry can be imprecise — to put it mildly.
Take Thomas Zdeblick, a prominent spine surgeon and researcher at the University of Wisconsin , who told the university in each of the five years he received payments from Medtronic that he’d received $20,000 or more from the company. One year, he reported getting $40,000 or more.
How much more? Over five years Zdeblick received $19 million in payments from Medtronic to help develop and promote products for the spine, the WSJ reports this morning. It’s the latest example to come out of Sen. Charles Grassley’s probe into potential conflicts of interest among doctors funded by industry. See Grassley’s letter to the university.
It appears Zdeblick was following school policies when he described the payments the way he did. They don’t require specific numbers beyond $20,000. And it’s common for medical disclosure policies to work that way: describe a broad dollar range, with no other details.
Robert Golden, dean of the university’s medical school, agreed that its disclosure requirements are insufficient and “indefensible,” and said they would be changed to require specific sums. “Clearly there is a big difference between $20,000 and $20 million,” he said. But he added he expects, upon further review, to find that Zdeblick has followed school rules. (The Wall Street Journal Health Blog)