Tag Archives: Infuse

Independent reviews find less benefit, more harm than first reported for bone protein product

Brenda Goodman

About Brenda Goodman

Brenda Goodman (@GoodmanBrenda), an Atlanta-based freelancer, is AHCJ’s topic leader on medical studies, curating related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on medical study resources and tip sheets at brenda@healthjournalism.org.

Efforts to correct biased and dangerous medical studies are making more headlines.

Shortly after I posted about a new idea to correct missing and misreported research, I got an email from AHCJ member John Fauber, an investigative reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

His latest story for the Journal Sentinel and MedPage Today involves an extensive undertaking coordinated by Yale University to correct the record on a product made by Medtronic called Infuse. The project is called YODA, for Yale Open Data Access. (Read more..)

Infuse — officially a device — consists of a metal cage fitted around a sponge that is soaked in a genetically engineered protein. The protein is supposed to promote bone growth and healing. It works, but perhaps too well. Side effects linked to its use include bone overgrowth that can trap and irritate nerve roots causing chronic pain. It has also been tied to a complication called retrograde ejaculation, which leads to sterility in men.  Patients who receive infuse also experienced more problems with wound healing and more cancer.

All in all, pretty devastating outcomes for patients who were hoping to feel better after their back surgeries. Continue reading

Fauber finds ‘failed back surgery syndrome’ after off-label use of Medtronic’s Infuse

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

John Fauber follows up his previous investigations into the myriad problems and conflicts of interest surrounding Medtronic’s Infuse product with a story on the emerging national epidemic of what pain specialists are calling “failed back surgery syndrome.” One local pain specialist Fauber contacted said that a full 10 percent to 15 percent of his patients suffered from the condition.

To bring the whole thing full circle, Fauber spends much of the body of this latest installment explaining how conflicts of interest and other questionable ethical situations, including off-label use, propelled the early and sustained success of Medtronic’s spine-fusion blockbuster and set the stage for the emerging pain epidemic.

Fauber’s Medtronic coverage is a joint project between the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and MedPage Today.

Medtronic hires Yale researchers to review Infuse data

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Medtronic, the manufacturer of spine fusion product Infuse, has hired Yale University researchers to review patient data and adverse event reports for the product.

spine

Photo by planetc1 via Flickr

The review follows months of reporting by John Fauber for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Medpage Today that have raised questions about the independence of doctors involved in clinical trials for the product.

The Wall Street Journal’s John Carreyou and Tom McGinty also used their paper’s Medicare data stockpile to look at the conflicts of interest and royalty money that drive the popularity of spine fusion treatments whose effectiveness has been disputed.

Serious complications involving Infuse have gone unreported in medical journal articles that were written by doctors who have financial ties to Medtronic.

The June issue of The Spine Journal was devoted to unreported complications related to Infuse, revealing that “complication rates … were 10 to 50 times greater than the estimated complication rates revealed” papers co-authored by doctors with financial ties to the company.

In a statement about the review by Yale researchers, Eugene J. Carragee, M.D., editor in chief of The Spine Journal, says “this appears to be a big first step in the right direction” but points out three challenges that lay ahead for the reviewers.

Top docs spar over Medtronic research, Iraq service

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Following up on his work on the dangers of Medtronic’s Infuse spine fusion product and the conflicts of interest that appear to have facilitated its approval and adoption, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel‘s John Fauber has the latest on high-profile sniping between two top orthopedic surgeons over the Spine Journal‘s recent Infuse issue devoted to the many complications and conflicts of Infuse.

The combatants in this case are frequent Fauber target and University of Wisconsin-Madison orthopedic surgeon Thomas Zdeblick, who has received $23 million from Medtronic since 2002, and Stanford orthopedic surgery professor and Spine Journal editor-in-chief Eugene Carragee, the Iraq veteran whose research helped spark the recent push against Infuse.

The showdown began with Zdeblick’s defiant response to the Spine Journal‘s Infuse research, a letter which included an apparent attempt to discredit Carragee’s review because the surgeon wasn’t performing the elective spine fusion surgeries while he was serving with the American military in Iraq. In response, Carragee says he took no extended leaves of absence during the period covered in his study. For the record, Carragee’s second tour of duty in Iraq was cut short in 2008 after he was injured in an attempted suicide attack.

The full text of Zdeblick’s initial letter and the response of Carragee and his co-authors has been published online, and the medical community has rallied around the decorated veteran.

In an email to the Journal Sentinel, Charles Rosen, president of the Association for Medical Ethics, was sharply critical of Zdeblick’s letter.

“Zdeblick’s assertions are so nonsensical that the whole letter strikes me more like the ravings of a guilty man who’s been cornered,” said Rosen, a clinical professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of California, Irvine.

Fauber’s review included a particularly tidy summary of the overall Medronic fracas, and I have included his wrapup below the fold in case anyone still needs to get up to speed on the issue.

Continue reading

Pushback against Medtronic’s Infuse hits boiling point

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Medtronic’s ongoing woes with its blockbuster spine fusion product Infuse have been a staple of Covering Health for as long as we can remember, but things have reached a crescendo this week.

spine
Photo by attila acs via Flickr

The first blow came with the publication of John Fauber’s in-depth report (read it at the Journal Sentinel or in MedPage Today) on the conflicts of interest and regulatory weak points that kept Infuse going strong despite serious questions about medical outcomes.

The next day, The Spine Journal made the unprecedented move of dedicating an entire issue to repudiating the failures of science and medical journal publication that made Infuse what it is today. For the record, both those links point straight to journal press releases. If you’re looking for more context, you’ll find it in Fauber’s followup to The Spine Journal‘s Infuse issue. HealthNewsReview editor and publisher Gary Schwitzer also blogged his take on the releases.

Fauber’s Medtronic coverage is a joint project between the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and MedPage Today.

Medtronic attracts attention from Baucus, Grassley

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Readers of Covering Health are likely familiar with medical device manufacturer Medtronic and John Fauber’s coverage of conflicts of interest surrounding the company’s Infuse product.

It seems that U.S. Senators Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and senior member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) also are aware of the coverage.

The two, leaders of the Senate Finance Committee, have demanded “an extensive trail of documents, including financial records and communications between the company and doctors who have received millions in royalties and other payments.” [See the letter.]

Over the past year, Fauber, of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (see update), has reported that the company made payments to surgeons “involved in the clinical testing of Infuse or who wrote positive medical journal articles that failed to link the product to serious complications.” Those complications include unwanted bone growth outside the fusion site and sterility in men.

Infuse is a biological agent used in spinal fusion surgery that stimulates bone growth.

A professor of orthopedics at Dartmouth Medical School is pleased the Finance Committee is investigating, saying it is doing public health work because his profession and the FDA failed to prevent this circumstance.

It appears there is more news to come about Infuse:

Next week, independent researchers are expected to publish more papers revealing additional serious complications with Infuse that were not reported in numerous articles published over the last decade and co-authored by doctors with financial ties to Medtronic. The independent researchers said their research also was prompted in part by Journal Sentinel reports.

Update

This post should have mentioned that the Medtronic coverage is a joint project between the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and MedPage Today.