Irish hospitals received over €2m in ‘education’ payments from medical device industry

Ireland 15th highest recipient of payments from medical device industry, research finds

Irish hospitals and healthcare organisations received over €2 million in “education” payments from medical device firms that supply them over a three-year period, according to new research on conflicts of interest in the industry.

The research, led by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), found Ireland is the fifteenth highest recipient of payments from the medical device industry, prompting calls from the researchers for the implementation of statutory obligations on reporting.

The study found that between 2017 and 2019, 116 medical device companies disclosed over €425 million in “education” payments across 53 countries, presenting significant potential for conflicts of interest.

The payments are “education-related,” meaning they should support the education of doctors and other healthcare professionals, for example through fellowships, grants, scholarships, and “educational events”.

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Payments are voluntarily reported to a database run by MedTechEurope, a medical device trade body, which the researchers said means the paper “likely underestimates the true extent” of payments.

The research, which is the largest ever study of conflicts of interest within the European medical device industry, was published in the journal Health Policy and Technology.

Ireland was the 15th highest recipient of funds, the researchers found, though they added that when funds were examined per-capita, Ireland was higher than Germany and Denmark, among others.

James Larkin, lead researcher of the study, said it is important to have better transparency around these payments.

“We think it shows a need for a mandatory system like the one they have in the US or France or Italy. The main reason these systems have been developed in other countries is as an anti-corruption measure,” he said.

“Payments from the pharmaceutical industry and medical devices industry are sometimes used to induce people to prescribe certain medicines or procure certain medical devices. These were set up as a watchdog to identify any red flags.

He added: “The second reason is these payments in general are associated with reduced quality prescribing and reduced quality medical devices procurement. So it’s important to have an overview of these types of activities to ensure patients are receiving the best quality care.”

Dr Piotr Ozieranski, co-author from the Centre for the Analysis of Social Policy, University of Bath, said: “If you are being fitted with a pacemaker, you trust the device has been chosen in the best interests of patient care, not because of a financial incentive. The stakes are high if this is undermined, as evidenced by the mesh implants scandal.”

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is Health Correspondent of The Irish Times