Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Grassley Broadens Focus of Probe of Dr. Polly and the University of Minnesota

Looking Into Connection With Fairview and Team Spine Minnesota-Inc.

The Strib reports:

A prominent U.S. senator probing the financial relationship between the head of spine surgery at the University of Minnesota and device giant Medtronic Inc. has broadened his inquiry to include Fairview Health Services, as well as a distributor of spine surgery products in St. Louis Park.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, sent letters on Tuesday to Mark Eustis, chief executive of Fairview Health Services, and Timothy Healy, the head of Team Spine-Minnesota Inc., requesting information regarding their relationship with Dr. David Polly of the University of Minnesota.

Grassley, a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee, also sent two letters to President Robert Bruininks on Tuesday and Wednesday requesting all communications sent or received by Polly, who was paid $1.2 million between 2003 and 2007 by the Fridley-based medical technology company for consulting, expenses and honoraria.

The salvo is the latest in Grassley's broader investigation probing conflicts of interest in medicine, and appears to be prompted by an interview Polly gave to Minnesota Public Radio in July. The senator's probe of the medical device industry began in 2007, when Grassley sent a letter to Medtronic CEO Bill Hawkins asking for details about the consulting relationships between the company and 15 of the nation's top spine surgeons, including Polly.

The letter to Fairview's Eustis asks for a monthly accounting of all devices used by Polly from January, 2008 to the present, as well as an explanation regarding Polly's role in Fairview's choice of devices used in spine surgery. The senator also asked whether Polly disclosed his relationship with Medtronic to Fairview.

The letter to Team-Spine asks for a monthly accounting of all Medtronic products used by Polly from January, 2008 to the present, the amount of bonus earned by a sales representative Terry McCord, and all correspondence between McCord and Polly from January 2008 to the present. Communications between McCord and Healy from July 24 to the present were also requested, as well as consulting reports filed with the company by Polly between March and late July.

University General Counsel Mark Rotenberg said in an interview that Grassley "raises important and serious concerns. The university is committed to having the highest standards possible in higher education for individual and institutional conflicts of interest avoidance."

(The noise you hear in the background is the sound of feet, dragging...)

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