Cardiac society gets half of its funding from stent industry

While recent lawsuits and research studies have raised questions about why some stent-happy cardiologists are implanting the tiny metal devices into the hearts of those who don’t need them, the group representing the doctors who implant those stents relies heavily on income from the very folks who make them. So say the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalists over at ProPublica.

For example, the Society for Cardiac Angiography and Interventions (SCAI) received 57% of its total revenues in 2009 from medical device and pharmaceutical makers, according to financial information on the group’s website.

Industry contributions to the society’s budget covered $4.7 million of the $8.2 million it received that year.

The group’s biggest funders are in fact the companies with the biggest share of the stent market: Cordis Corp. (a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson), Boston Scientific, Abbott Laboratories and Medtronic.

Researchers who study conflicts of interest in medicine say medical societies that receive a lot of industry support are susceptible to taking positions that either promote their sponsors’ products or downplay their risks. Continue reading

Stent-happy docs on notice in Maryland health care fraud debate

Mark Midei, then

For over a year, The Baltimore Sun has been following the federal investigation of Dr. Mark Midei, a Maryland cardiologist who is charged with implanting unneeded heart stents after being influenced by the stent maker, Abbott Laboratories. The Maryland legislature is now considering a ban on gifts to all physicians from medical companies.

Here’s how The Sun summarizes the latest news  in this health care fraud case:  Continue reading

Cardiologists accused of implanting cardiac stents that weren’t needed

I now sport a shiny stainless steel stent implanted into my left anterior descending coronary artery that was 99% blocked when I survived a heart attack two years ago. Stents are like tiny chicken wire mesh tubes inserted inside the obstructed coronary arteries of your beating heart and then expanded using a small balloon to open blocked arteries that prevent blood flow to heart muscle.

But it appears that some cardiologists like these miraculous little devices so much that they are implanting stents into patients who don’t need them.   Continue reading

Columbia University drug study scandal

doctor steth funnyThis story is enough to strike terror into our hearts.  Literally.  If you happen to be a medical researcher, it’s even more troubling, because anytime you have patients dying during clinical trials, researchers  investigated by their employers, lawsuits launched against hospitals by their own doctors, drug companies funding research into products that kill people, patients misinformed about what studies would do to them, and world-famous heart institutes trying to sweep all of it under the rug – well, it looks bad.

The non-profit Huffington Post Investigative Fund obtained government documents last week about a two-year drug study undertaken at Columbia University Medical Center between 1999 and 2001 that was so badly mismanaged, it will likely be used as a case study in future PR classes.

This study focused on four fluids called ‘blood expanders’ that are administered by anaesthesiologists and combat medics when patients/soldiers have lost significant quantities of blood. Blood expanders are frequently needed during over half a million cardiac surgeries performed each year in North America alone.

Trouble was: two of the study’s four blood expanders contained hetastarch, which two previous studies dating back to 1981 had already warned would prevent blood from clotting at high dosages, and one of the two, Hextend, was manufactured by drug giant Abbott Laboratories – coincidentally one of the funders of the study.  Abbott’s interest was in boosting its share of the blood expander business with Hextend if the Columbia study results were favourable. Continue reading