Government

Several U. of Wisconsin Medical-School Professors Accepted Large Corporate Payments

June 22, 2009

Thomas A. Zdeblick, an orthopedic surgeon, apparently isn’t the only doctor at the University of Wisconsin who has been collecting a substantial outside income from medical companies.

A tally by the Journal Sentinel of Milwaukee has now found that Dr. Zdeblick had at least six colleagues at the Wisconsin medical school who have also been receiving six-figure payments from makers of pharmaceuticals and medical devices.

The newspaper reported in January that Dr. Zdeblick received more than $19-million from Medtronic, the medical device-maker, from 2003 to 2007. That led University of Wisconsin officials to declare that their policy of requiring doctors to state only whether they were collecting more than $20,000 a year from outside sources — without declaring the actual figure — wasn’t sufficient to guard against possible abuses.

Such payments aren’t illegal, though critics, including U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, a Republican of Iowa, have questioned whether large payments to doctors might improperly influence their decisions in patient research and patient treatment.

The new cases at the University of Wisconsin described by the Journal Sentinel include Paul A. Anderson, a professor of orthopedic surgery who was paid $150,000 by Medtronic for eight days of work as a consultant; Ben K. Graf, an associate professor of orthopedic surgery who collected $770,000 in royalties from the medical-device manufacturer Smith & Nephew; and Clifford B. Tribus, an associate professor of orthopedic surgery who was paid $310,000 for royalties and 15 days of work as a speaker and consultant for Stryker Spine, another device company. —Paul Basken