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Infuse Bone Graft Researcher Failed to Tell Senate Committee He was Paid by Medtronic During 2006 Testimony

Jul 29, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP A spine surgeon who had a financial relationship with Medtronic Inc. did not disclose that relationship when he testified before a Senate committee urging more funding for research into combat-related injuries, The Wall Street Journal is reporting.  One of Medtronic's products, Infuse Bone Graft, has been used to treat wounded soldiers.

Following his May 2006 testimony, Dr. David Polly and his colleagues at the University of Minnesota received a $466,644 Department of Defense grant for a two-year study involving Infuse, the Journal said.

According to the Journal, Polly was paid more than $1 million by Medtronic from 2004 to 2007.  When the University of Minnesota approved Polly's government-funded Infuse study, it said at the time that his "consulting duties for Medtronic appear sufficiently separate from the research he is performing."  Right after the study was approved by the University, Polly billed Medtronic for writing up a different Infuse study.

Polly's billing records revealed that he billed Medtronic $50,000 for lobbying-related costs.  According to The Wall Street Journal, Polly traveled to Washington, D.C. and met with members of Congress several times in 2005 and 2006.  The Journal also reported that Polly's "billing rate was $4,750 for an eight-hour day in 2007, and he billed as many as 13,000 minutes a quarter -- or 216 hours over three months. In some months, he conducted at least some Medtronic business on nearly every day."

Senator Charles Grassley, R-IA, who has been investigating the financial relationships between medical companies and researchers, has sent Medtronic a letter, asking if its payments to Polly represent a conflict of interest.  According to a report in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal, Grassley also charged in the letter that Polly gave Medtronic updates on government-sponsored research in violation of an agreement with the university and may have provided inaccurate information to a university ethics committee.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Medtronic said it was not aware that Polly had failed to tell the Senate committee about his financial ties to the company when he testified in May 2006.  However, this is not the first time that Medtronic's relationship with an Infuse researcher has raised questions.  

Earlier this month, we reported that another spine surgeon, Dr. Timothy Kuklo had failed to report his financial relationship with Medtronic to Washington University medical school in St. Louis. When he failed to make that disclosure, Kuklo was working on two studies that involved Medtronic products, the Journal said. The University said it stopped Kuklo’s Medtronic-related research in February of 2008, and learned of his relationship with the company in May 2007. Dr. Kuklo is currently on a paid personal leave at the request of the university.

Dr. Kuklo is the former Army surgeon who has been accused of falsifying data in a study involving Medtronic’s Infuse Bone Graft product - which he conducted during the time he received payments from Medtronic- while on the staff of Walter Reed Army Hospital.

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