It's not often that you'll read about crab and BBQ feasts in this space, but these offerings are part of what embattled physician Mark Midei enjoyed as part of his relationship with Abbott Laboratories.

December 7, 2010

2 Min Read
Abbott Under Fire for Ties to Stent-Happy Doc

These and other perks are coming into question because a Senate Finance Committee report reveals that Midei, formerly a cardiologist at St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson, MD, performed a variety of unnecessary and potentially harmful stent procedures in a case that is "a clear example of potential fraud, waste, and abuse."

Cushy and well-paid consulting gigs have been under a microscope for several years now. What puts Abbott in murky ethical waters is the fact that the company retained Midei as a sales consultant even after he was barred from practicing at St. Joseph's for implanting heart stents in hundreds of patients who didn't need them. (The hospital billed Medicare and private insurers $6.6 million for the procedures.) Over the course of the physician-company partnership, Abbott paid for several events at Midei's home, including a "beers and crabs" dinner and a whole-pig barbeque for the hospital's cardiac lab employees.

In addition, Senate investigators wonder "whether or not Abbott Laboratories indirectly encouraged Dr. Midei to intensify his use of stents, with unfortunate results." According to documents obtained by the committee, Abbott officials lauded Midei for implanting 30 stents in a day, a feat that the company called a record. Midei was described by the device firm as "one of the highest implantors [sic] thus far." Then Abbott noted an "ugly" decline in the volume of stent procedures at hospitals throughout the Baltimore region after the allegations against Midei became public. There was a 46% decline at St. Joseph's.

Speaking of the allegations becoming public, one Abbott official complained about a Baltimore Sun columnist covering the scandal: "someone needs to take this writer outside and kick his ass!"

Abbott's official statement on the matter? "Dr. Midei has been a highly regarded physician in his field, with whom Abbott had consulted in the past. Our affiliation with Dr. Midei ended early this year." Apparently not early enough. —Lawrence Lloyd

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