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Should Doctors Also Act as Device Sellers?

By Joyce Frieden

Physician-owned distributorships (PODs), commonly used by spinal surgeons and others to procure and distribute the medical devices for the procedures they perform, are coming under fire.

“While these arrangements are not always problematic, we are seeing more and more of these physician-salespeople using the very devices they sell in the surgeries and procedures they perform,” Senate Finance Committee chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), said at a hearing on PODs last month. “Many critics have argued — with significant evidence to support their case — that this practice creates a financial incentive for these physicians to recommend and perform more and more unnecessary surgeries.”

PODs take varying forms in terms of whether physician-investors practice in the hospitals to which they distribute medical devices, whether they only distribute devices or also manufacture them, and which services they offer along with the purchase of their devices, according to an October 2013 report from the Office of Inspector General (OIG) at the Department of Health and Human Services.

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