Wednesday, July 29, 2009

An Award For Duty Above

And Beyond The Call of Service

From the Wall Street Journal:

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.

Medtronic said it was not aware that Dr. Polly hadn't disclosed his ties to the company when testifying and "expected that he would have done so." The company said it has "decided to investigate Dr. Polly's consulting relationship and activities to our company." More broadly, Medtronic said it has, over the past several weeks, undertaken a "comprehensive review" of company procedures aimed at making sure physicians disclose their work for the company and expects to issue new standards in that regard.

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."

Just after the university approved his work on the government-funded research, Dr. Polly billed Medtronic for time spent writing up the results from another Infuse study and met with Medtronic executives on Infuse-related topics, according to his billing records.

In total, Dr. Polly billed Medtronic for more than $50,000 in lobbying-related costs. He made trips to Washington in 2005 and 2006 and called on several members of Congress, according to the records.

According to billing records, Dr. Polly's billing rate was $4,750 for an eight-hour day in 2007, and he billed as many as 13,000 minutes a quarter -- or 216 hours over three months. In some months, he conducted at least some Medtronic business on nearly every day.

His consulting log indicates that on one occasion he spent one minute to wake up a Medtronic executive, although he listed "no charge" for that service. He did bill Medtronic for the 30 minutes he spent in the car with that executive after waking him up.

Truly service above and beyond the call of duty...

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