In May 2006, University of Minnesota spine surgeon David Polly urged a Senate committee to fund research into the severe arm, leg and spine injuries suffered by soldiers in Iraq and elsewhere.
Dr. Polly told the committee he was testifying on behalf of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and referenced his prior work caring for soldiers as a surgeon at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
What Dr. Polly didn't disclose during his testimony was that his trip to Washington was paid for by Medtronic Inc., the big medical-device maker whose bone growth product, called Infuse, has been used to treat soldiers, according to company records.
Dr. Polly and colleagues in Minnesota subsequently received a $466,644 Department of Defense grant for a two-year study beginning in February 2007 to evaluate Infuse in cases where an injury is also infected, according to the university.
Dr. Polly was paid $1.14 million by Medtronic for consulting services from 2004 to 2007.
Details of Dr. Polly's consultant billing were provided by Medtronic to Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican who has been scrutinizing the relationship between academics and industry.
A University of Minnesota spokesman said the school was reviewing the information gathered by Sen. Grassley....
A university committee cleared Dr. Polly to work on the government-funded research of Medtronic's Infuse, saying that his "consulting duties for Medtronic appear sufficiently separate from the research he is performing."
Yesterday the Star Tribune reported:
While the university requires physicians to report financial compensation from these business relationships, there is no limit on the amount they can receive. Further, even though Polly received more than $200,000 a year from Medtronic between 2004 and 2007, he was required by the U only to check a box stating he received "in excess of $10,000."
The U's Medical School has approved a new conflict of interest policy that requires more detailed and public disclosure of these relationships, but that document is on hold for the time being.
Disclosure: I served on the committee that drafted the new COI policy for the UMN med school.
Further disclosure: I have no idea what's going on with the document now.