Every now and again, a story pops up that makes my eyes widen and my jaw drop. This is one such story. In an incredible tale of public betrayal, Michael Drobot, former Pacific Hospital executive, has been accused of overseeing a scheme that resulted in the implantation of fake spinal implants into thousands of patients. The imagination can run wild with exactly what that means. I can only imagine what it would be like to wake up one day and realize I was one such patient. This is the stuff of nightmares.
In a plea deal, Drobot has admitted to overstating the price of medical implants and funneling bribes to State Senator Ron Calderon, with workers' compensation paying for many of the fraudulent implants. Sure, medical device margins are substantial, but that is no validation for circumventing the existing infrastructure. As if that wasn't bad enough, a patient, named as Mary Cavalieri, has since filed a suit against doctors, hospitals, and medical device distributors allegedly involved in the scheme. She alleges that she was the recipient of knockoff devices that were implanted into her spine. Unbelievable! The remarkable suit alleges that surgeons received bribes from vendors of the fake implants, with cash, travel incentives and sports memorabilia. When did ethics become such a non-factor, Spinal implant surgery is among the most profitable surgeries out there, but apparently greed knows no bounds; enough is seemingly never enough.
The suit also alleges that the patient's surgeon had agreed to acquire spinal implants that were not FDA-approved, but rather from a machine shop in Temecula that was facilitated by Drobot. The scheme is thought to further involve false billing statements supporting ill-gotten gains for participants in the operation. Insurers have long placed pressure on spinal implant procedures, and there is no doubt that such a story will fuel the fire of stringency in the reimbursement climate. The suit goes further to allege Drobot's intention to manufacture and distribute counterfeit medical devices for use as spinal implants in the future. Drobot's plea deal does not protect him from prosecution related to his participation and facilitation of the use of the fake implants.
How's that for a medical device story? Just when you thought you saw everything.