The Sunshine Act: Are spine surgeons wary of device company partnerships?

Written by Anuja Vaidya | September 18, 2014 | Print  |

The Sunshine Act passed last year, requiring medical device companies to disclose compensation or gifts given to surgeons. CMS collected data from device companies and the database is expected to "go live" on Sept. 30.

However, the act has always been rife with controversy. Four spine surgeons discuss the impact that the Sunshine Act will have on young spine surgeons and their relationships with device companies.


Ask Spine Surgeons is a weekly series of questions posed to spine surgeons around the country about clinical, business and policy issues affecting spine care. We invite all spine surgeon and specialist responses. Next week's question: What are some ways in which spine surgeons maintain good referral relationships?

Please send responses to Anuja Vaidya at by Wednesday, Sept. 24, at 5 p.m. CST.


Question: Will the Sunshine Act dissuade young spine surgeons from forming relationships with device companies? Do you see this as a positive trend?


Nader Dahdaleh, MD, Northwestern Medicine Neurosurgeon, Assistant Professor, Department of Neurological Surgery, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago: The Sunshine Act was designed to provide transparent and objective information to the public on the types of financial relationships that exist between manufacturers and physicians. Physicians have a 45-day window to review and dispute any data that appears inaccurate. This is of particular importance to spine surgeons who are prone to liability and scrutiny.


Since patients' reactions towards conflicts of interest are unpredictable and based on beliefs, education, background and a multitude of other factors, young spine surgeons will keep their relationships to industry to a minimum. This potentially would be of benefit to young spine surgeons who are trying to build their reputation and referral base. Their primary focus and energy should be channeled towards patient care and favorable outcomes.


On the other hand, industry has always played a significant role in advancing the field through supporting innovation, education and creativity and hence, in the long run a delicate balance should be achieved.


Sheeraz Qureshi, MD, Assistant Professor, Spinal Surgery, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital, New York: I don't believe the Sunshine Act will dissuade spine surgeons (young or old) from forming relationships with device companies. I think this is a positive trend that allows for transparency and protects surgeons, companies and ultimately patients.  


There are so many positives that come from surgeon-industry collaboration and we should view full disclosure as a way to highlight how this collaboration helps to advance the field of medicine and patient care.


William Taylor, MD, Director, Spine Surgery, Vice Chairman, Division of Neurological Surgery, University of California, San Diego: The Sunshine Act by focusing solely on monetary payments ignores the many positive aspects of an appropriate industry relationship. An interaction that includes but is not limited to technology assessment, teaching courses, lectures, product development, technique evaluations and post/pre-market analysis is beneficial to both physical therapists and surgeons. There are few better ways to become a better doctor and surgeon than engaging in the above interactions.


Ara Deukmedjian, MD, CEO, Medical Director, Deuk Spine Institute, Melbourne, Fla.: I don't think the effect will be dramatic. I think the transparency will be good for everyone.

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