Medical device company Biotronik decided to play it big in Las Vegas. An article in The New York Times discusses how the little-known company aggressively overtook the market for pacemakers and defribrillators atÂ Las Vegas’Â University Medical Center a couple of years ago. Before 2008, its products were not used at the hospital; in 2010, 95% of patients who received a heart device got a Biotronik product.
According to the in-depth article by Barry Meier, who covers issues related to business, public health and the law for The New York Times,
The devices’ sudden popularity was apparently not left to chance. In mid-2008, Biotronik hired several cardiologists who implant heart devices at the Las Vegas hospital as consultants, paying them fees that may have reached as high as $5,000 a month, company documents reviewed by The New York Times indicate. Those doctors then did the rest. Meanwhile, the hospital’s chief executive said she never asked during the hospital’s switch to Biotronik whether those physicians had a financial connection to the company.
There is now a federal investigation into the company’s marketing and sales practices. Meier uses the Biotronik case to highlight the medical device industry practices to push their products into the hands of medical professionals. (The Biotronik case is certainly not the first.) Biotronik salespeople allegedly manipulated doctors into accepting their products, such as noting in documents a certain doctor’s weakness for white wine.
Rajendrani "Raj" Mukhopadhyay is a science writer and editor who contributes news stories and feature articles on scientific advances to a variety of magazines. Raj holds Ph.D. in biophysics from Johns Hopkins University.