Medtronic will pay $9.2M settlement over alleged kickbacks to neurosurgeon

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Minneapolis-based Medtronic, a medical device maker, has agreed to pay more than $9.2 million to resolve allegations that it made improper payments to a neurosurgeon in South Dakota, according to the Department of Justice

The settlement resolves allegations that Medtronic paid for social events at a restaurant owned by Wilson Asfora, MD, to induce him to use the company's infusion pumps. Over a nine-year period, Medtronic allegedly paid for more than 100 events at Dr. Asfora's restaurant. 

Medtronic agreed to pay $8.1 million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by paying Dr. Asfora kickbacks. It agreed to pay an additional $1.1 million to settle allegations that it violated the Open Payments Program by failing to accurately report payments it made to the surgeon to CMS. 

Dr. Asfora and two of his companies are defendants in a separate False Claims Act lawsuit that was filed last year. The lawsuit alleges he received kickbacks to use certain implants in his spinal surgeries. 

In October 2019, Sioux Falls, S.D.-based Sanford Health, Dr. Asfora's previous employer, agreed to pay $20.25 million to settle False Claims Act allegations. The settlement resolved allegations that Sanford officials knew Dr. Asfora was receiving kickbacks from using medical devices distributed by a company he owned. The alleged scheme created an incentive for Dr. Asfora to perform unnecessary surgeries. 

In a statement to the Argus Leader last year, Dr. Asfora said he did not perform any unnecessary surgeries. 

"I want to make my position clear. I did not perform any unnecessary surgeries and I did not do any surgeries for the purpose of profiting from using medical devices I invented," Dr. Asfora told the Argus Leader. "I stand by my work as a physician and made every single medical decision based solely on my judgment as to what was the best for my patient, not myself. I am disappointed that after originally accurately identifying the relators' and the government's accusations as 'bogus,' Sanford made business decisions that led it to fire me and pay my accusers over $20 million, but, sadly, for some, business is just business."  

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