Patient care, professionalism, and relations with industry

Patient care is the primary focus of the orthopaedic profession. The enhancement of patient care has required and will continue to require orthopaedic surgeons to collaborate productively with industry to develop new medical technology and techniques that improve patient care. The relationship between orthopaedic surgeons and industry is of critical importance to the shared ultimate goal of improving patient care.

Orthopaedic surgeons are well qualified to provide innovative ideas and feedback to industry, conduct research trials, serve on scientific advisory boards, and serve as faculty to teach the uses of new technology. The relationship between orthopaedic surgeons and industry is important and necessary, but it must be carefully scrutinized to avoid the pitfalls of real or perceived conflicts of interest that could ultimately affect patient care.

In late September, four orthopaedic manufacturing companies entered into Deferred Prosecution Agreements, agreeing to pay civil settlements amounting to a total of $311 million. In addition, one orthopaedic company entered into a Non-Prosecution Agreement. All will be subject to oversight by a federal monitor appointed by the U.S. Department of Justice for 18 months. The companies did not admit any wrongdoing, plead guilty to any criminal charges, or pay any criminal fines as part of the settlement. The federal government, through the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey, has agreed not to pursue any criminal charges against the companies if they comply with the Agreements. Clearly, a spotlight has been shone on companies and orthopaedic surgeons alike.

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