Orthopedic surgeons critical of Intermountain's supplier switch

Spinal Tech

Salt Lake City-based Intermountain Healthcare's decision to drop Arthrex for DePuy Synthes products has come under fire, according to a report in The Salt Lake Tribune.

Arthrex had been the longstanding orthopedic device supplier for Intermountain until January, when the system and its insurance subsidiary signed a new deal with DePuy Synthes estimated to generate $5 million in savings this year. Intermountain orthopedic surgeon Paul Winterton, MD, spoke out against the move, suggesting the decision was driven by payments DePuy Synthes made to colleagues.

Hugh West, MD, the surgeon who led an internal committee review of orthopedic device supplies, has received $13 million in royalties from DePuy Synthes in the last seven years, according to the federal government. He received royalties for his inventions and does not get paid when the devices are used. The Salt Lake Tribune said nine physicians it interviewed, in addition to Dr. Winterton, reported concerns about Intermountain's decision to switch suppliers, arguing the new supplier's implants are lower quality and surgeons will have a learning curve to implementing the devices, which could affect outcomes.

"They are willing to compromise patient care over a few pennies," Dr. Winterton told the publication. "It's just absolutely despicable."

Dr. Winterton and other Intermountain physicians received payments from Arthrex for training, consulting and other services, but not royalties. It is common for orthopedic companies to pay for surgeon training and consulting since the surgeons spend time away from their practices for these activities.

Intermountain told the publication its decision to switch suppliers was driven by costs and Arthex's proposal didn't meet the system's pricing requirements.

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