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Kansas senators question VA hospital over bribery allegations

Medtronic representatives are accused of unethically persuading doctors to use its devices in procedures even when they’re not medically necessary, which research shows can be harmful to patients.

Currently, the allegations center on artery-blocking procedures that took place at the Robert J. Dole Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Wichita, Kan. A ProPublica investigation uncovered text messages between two Medtronic representatives advocating increased use of the device by a physician.

Now, U.S. Senators from Kansas are also asking questions and demanding answers from the VA facility, ProPublica reported Feb. 18.

In a Feb. 16 letter obtained by ProPublica, Sens. Jerry Moran and Roger Marshall, MD, are explicitly asking the hospital to provide a detailed history of VA knowledge of the issue and incident response, as well as requesting that it “act expeditiously contact all veterans who have been seen at the lab of catheterization during the relevant period, inform them of steps the VA has taken to evaluate the quality of care they have received there, and provide them with contact information for the appropriate officials who can address any questions or concerns they may have.”

According to ProPublica, “Between 2011 and 2018, VA healthcare providers received steakhouse dinners, Apple electronics, and NASCAR tickets, and in turn, Medtronic secured a lucrative contract with the hospital,” the article reads. . “Meanwhile, company representatives allegedly ‘treated and trained’ the facility’s doctors, who then distributed the company’s devices even when it wasn’t medically indicated.”

Boua Xiong, a spokesperson for Medtronic, told Becker’s, “These allegations are false and Medtronic is defending these claims in court. As the case is ongoing, we are unable to comment further at this time.”

A statement the VA shared with ProPublica said, “Although we are unable to comment on the specifics of the ongoing litigation, patient safety is our top priority at VA – and as steward of taxpayer funds, VA takes take seriously its responsibility to protect against fraud, rejection and abuse,” and further adds that the organization “is conducting a broad review of patient care at [Robert J. Dole Veterans Affairs Medical Center] — including the number of devices used on patients — to make sure veterans haven’t been harmed by any procedures. To date, VA has not experienced any quality of care issues. The investigation will continue until each veteran’s case has been reviewed.”

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