Dutch cardiologists secretly receiving millions from medical industry: report
Dozens of cardiologists in the Netherlands receive millions of euros from the medical industry without their hospitals knowing about it, NOS and Nieuwsuur report after analyzing hundreds of medical industry payments to specialists by combining different databases. They found that cardiologists from non-academic hospitals receive a lot of money in their private limited companies and foundations compared to other specialists and hospitals.
Such payments are not uncommon - medical companies regularly sponsor specialists to carry out scientific studies. But to minimize the risk of conflict of interest or even bribery, these donations must always be approved in advance by the hospital where the specialist works. That is important because doctors have a say in which medicines or medical technology their patients use.
NOS and Nieuwsuur spoke to nine hospitals where cardiologists received relatively large amounts of money. At least seven did not know about these payments. Three - Amphia Hospital in Breda, Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Dordrecht, and Canisius-Wilhelmina Hospital in Nijmegen - did not even know that their cardiologists had private limited companies or foundations. Some of the hospitals buy from medical companies that sponsor their doctors.
“It is astonishing that permission was not requested,” Jaap Sijmons, professor of health law, said to NOS. “Medical companies employ a lot of lawyers, and they know that doctors need that signature from the board. The fact that a lot still happens in backrooms despite legislation is a big problem.”
“The risk is that bribery will occur,” Rob van Eijbergen, professor of scientific integrity, said to the broadcaster. “The question is whether cardiologists could freely and independently express their opinion about which resources they needed or whether other motives inspired them. The hospitals must therefore look at the funds that they received.”
The cardiologists at the three hospitals in Dordrecht, Breda, and Nijmegen told NOS and Nieuwsuur that they mainly spent the money on scientific research and education and insisted that they were not bribed. Though proving otherwise is difficult. The hospitals are investigating and stressed that their purchasing apartments work independently of the cardiologists.
But that’s too little too late, Sijmons said to NOS. “Because bribery is difficult to prove, there are clear rules. You need a signature from the board of directors for the payments so that they can supervise. And even if there was a good reason for the payment and a lot of hard work happened for it, without a signature, you are breaking the law.”