Surgeon's fees: $2000 for dinner, $900 for conference call. Story: priceless.


The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports:

It's nice work if you can get it: $1,750 to talk shop at dinner; $42 for making a five-minute phone call; $125 to spend 15 minutes on some e-mail.

When your pay rate is $500 an hour, the money adds up.

Welcome to the world of Dr. David Polly, the University of Minnesota spine surgeon who received nearly $1.2 million in consulting fees from medical device giant Medtronic over a five-year period.

Details of Polly's billing records were released this week by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, as an attachment to a letter to University of Minnesota President Robert Bruininks. The letter raised questions about how the U polices conflicts of interest among doctors.

And on Thursday, Fridley-based Medtronic -- the world's largest maker of products used in spine surgery -- said it was asking some questions, too.

"We are investigating specific charges for which Dr. Polly billed us and determining whether or not they fit our standards and policies, and if newly enhanced standards are required," spokesman Steve Cragle said in a prepared statement.

... Dr. Charles Rosen, a spine surgeon in California who leads a medical ethics group, said he was among those surprised by the details.

"I've not seen anybody bill the way he did," said Rosen, of the University of California-Irvine, who acknowledged that he doesn't do paid consulting work with the device industry.

"In my opinion, it sounds more like an investment banker," he said of the detailed billing. "It doesn't sound like someone in medicine."

From invoices submitted to Medtronic by Dr. Polly:

# Download CDs from meeting, 15 minutes, $125

# Dinner meeting, 240 minutes, $2,000

# E-mail Medtronic employee, five minutes, $49.48

# Conference call, 90 minutes, $890.63

# Teach at scoliosis meeting, 330 minutes, $2,750


When I was a big pharma drug rep., I'd pay a cardiologist 1500 dollars for a ten minute 'talk' about hypertension, which may or may not involve product or disease state dialogues at all- depending on the relationship between the speaker and the doctor or two that this speaker may be talking with for this short period of time.

For some good investigative reporting from the inside on the perverted relationships between the medical profession and the pharmaceutical/device industry see Dr. Carlat's blog at

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Gary Schwitzer published on July 31, 2009 7:05 AM.

Consumer Reports critiques Abilify ad because "it scares us" was the previous entry in this blog.

Caveat emptor on medical device ads - models beware, too! is the next entry in this blog.

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