Bribing Doctors

Over at, Merrill Goozner raises a very good question. Under the headline “SEC Slaps J&J with $70 Million Penalty for Overseas Corruption” Merrill asks: “What’s the difference between what the medical supply company did abroad compared to what it or companies like it do every day in the U.S.?”

My response would be “not much”—except that U.S. patients are the victims when these companies bribe our physicians.

Goozner continues: “Forget for a moment that Johnson & Johnson was also accused of paying kickbacks to the Iraqi government to illegally obtain business. The Securities and Exchange Commission’s main charge accused J&J of “bribing public doctors in several European countries.”

“Here’s how the press release described the violations:

“Since at least 1998, subsidiaries of the New Brunswick, N.J.-based pharmaceutical, consumer product, and medical device company paid bribes to public doctors in Greece who selected J&J surgical implants, public doctors and hospital administrators in Poland who awarded contracts to J&J, and public doctors in Romania to prescribe J&J pharmaceutical products.

“Moreover, according to the SEC’s complaint filed in federal court in the District of Columbia, public doctors and administrators in Greece, Poland, and Romania who ordered or prescribed J&J products were rewarded in a variety of ways, including with cash and inappropriate travel. Another violation: J&J subsidiaries, employees and agents used ‘sham civil contracts’ with doctors.

“These wouldn’t be consulting agreements, would they? I fail to see how J&J’s actions abroad in these particular aspects of the case were any different from what makes the front page of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal every couple of months with regard to payments to U.S. physicians for attending dinners and lectures, installing preferred medical devices, and offering sham consulting agreements. In 2007, the government brought a major case against five device companies that temporarily cracked down on these practices. A week ago, a front page story told us these practices continue unabated at least one major U.S. hospital. Where are the ongoing investigation indictments in those and other cases?”

Read the rest of Goozner’s post–and see his recommendation that we pass a Corrupt Domestic Practices Act. 


6 thoughts on “Bribing Doctors

  1. Dr. Rick:
    So the next time, a doctor accepts a private plane trip +hotel + meals including his wife to “The Masters,” etc.; you would expect that person to go to jail? I would like to see that one. Its still the “Wild West for doctors and hospitals. They are not even close to following the rules much of private industry follows.

  2. run 75441 and Rick–
    Tun 75441 & Rick — I think Dr. Rick is suggesting that managment att he companies that hand out the bribes should face jail sentences.
    I agree.
    I would add that even this is much easier said than done.
    Still, the Enron scandal led to prison sentences (and I wasnt’ at all sure it would, especially given managements’ close connection to the Bush family.)
    I do think that within the healthcare industry– an industry which is not just about money but blood– corrupt companies should face prison sentences for top execs.

  3. It is so sad. This story is so old and worn out. Top execs of companies we entrust to care for our health are crooked and nothing happens to them.
    A few bloggers complain, a few news stories are written, and the companies trot out their say anything for a buck MDs and lawyers and PR folks and the positive stories then drown out the corruption admissions.
    Sad, so sad. I believe that the president has almost full control of the justice department does he not, and HHS, etc.?
    Going after these folks is not just right, its politically popular.
    I am really hoping Obama reads these blogs.

  4. One of the felons got elected Governor of Florida!- Rick Scott of HCA- I understand there is a recall petition though?
    Agree these stories are tiring because little seems to change?
    Dr. Rick Lipin