U of M: Surgeon Violated Disclosure Rules

The U of M reportedly found that university surgeon David Polly violated its conflict-of-interest rules by failing to disclose his paid relationship with Medtronic on three occasions, but the school is not taking any disciplinary action against him.

A University of Minnesota spine surgeon violated the university's ethics policies by failing to disclose his paid relationship with Fridley-based Medtronic, Inc., on three occasions in recent years, according to a Pioneer Press report.

The university reportedly decided not to take any disciplinary action against David Polly because it didn't find evidence of fraud or misrepresentation of facts. However, Aaron Friedman, the dean of the U's medical school, reportedly sent Polly a cautionary letter that asked him to disclose all conflicts of interest in the future, as required by the U's disclosure rules.

“I strongly disapprove of your disclosure violations as outlined in the committee's report,” Friedman reportedly wrote in the letter.

An internal review committee at the university started to investigate Polly's relationship with Medtronic after the university received a series of letters from U.S. Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, who disclosed that Polly had received nearly $1.2 million in consulting fees from Medtronic over a five-year period, according to the Pioneer Press.

The review committee reportedly found that Polly had failed to disclose his consulting relationship with Medtronic in three instances-a research poster submitted for a conference in December 2008, a paper he wrote in 2007 that appeared in The Journal of Orthopedic Trauma, and a study that appeared in a medical journal called Spine.

Polly told the Pioneer Press that he agrees with the committee's findings. “I did come up short in three circumstances,” he said. “There were some I's that I didn't dot and T's that I didn't cross.”

Polly added that even so, his performance in making required disclosures is pretty good compared to his peers. He cited a New England Journal of Medicine article that found that doctors met requirements in making disclosures less than 80 percent of the time.

Grassley's 2009 letters to the university were reportedly part of an effort by the senator to investigate conflicts of interest among doctors who are paid for their consulting work with medical device and pharmaceutical companies. The senator had questioned whether payments from companies such as Medtronic would make doctors more inclined to use Medtronic products even if cheaper or better alternatives exist, the Pioneer Press reported.

Polly told the Pioneer Press that the process of responding to the review has been draining emotionally and financially, and estimated that he has spent about $250,000 in legal fees. Nonetheless, he said he was pleased that no disciplinary actions would be taken.