Top spine surgeon patent holders are among top licensing, royalty earners


A study published in The Spine Journal found a link between the number of patents orthopedic spine surgeons hold and the amount of royalties and licensing fees they receive from the industry.

The article, published online Dec. 18, examined top royalty and licensing earners from August 2013 through December 2018 based on information from the Open Payments database. The royalties and licensing payments are designed for manufacturers to compensate physicians for the use of their intellectual property.

The authors defined top earners as those who collectively earned 50 percent of all royalty and licensing payments during the study period. Then the authors compared their findings with the top earners from other payment categories such as consulting fees or travel and lodging.

Three findings:

1. The top earners had significantly more patents than comparison groups from other payment categories, except for top earners among biomedical company owners.

2. Top earners also had more manuscripts than three of the five comparison groups.

3. For top earners, receiving more royalty and licensing payments was linked to holding more patents but not publishing more papers, according to the report.

"Our findings provide new, important context for the largest category of industry payments to orthopedic spine surgeons and suggest that physicians' patents should be considered when evaluating financial transactions between industry and physicians," concluded the study authors.

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