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    "When many cures are offered for a disease, it means the disease is not curable" -Anton Chekhov

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    Tuesday, December 13, 2005

    Life on the Third Frontier: Here in Ohio we have a tax-payer funded venture-capital promoting program known as the "third frontier" in which the state gives taxpayer money to corporations as venture capital. The Cleveland Clinic is a recipient of some of those funds, which has allowed it to establish its own venture capital program. Turns out, some of those funds have gone to a maker of a cardiac device that has been heavily promoted by the Cleveland Clinic and its doctors:

    CLEVELAND -- Since 2001, more than 1,200 patients at the prestigious Cleveland Clinic have had an operation aimed at correcting atrial fibrillation, a form of heart fluttering.

    Doctors commonly call it the "AtriCure procedure," after the maker of the equipment used in the surgery, a company called AtriCure Inc. In medical journals and at conferences, the Cleveland Clinic and its doctors have been leading advocates of the AtriCure procedure.

    The Clinic's relationship with AtriCure, however, goes deeper. A venture-capital partnership that the Clinic helped found and invested in owns about 4.1% of AtriCure's stock, valued at about $7 million. The Clinic's chief executive, heart surgeon Delos "Toby" Cosgrove, sat on AtriCure's board of directors until March. He also invested personally in the fund and was one of the general partners managing it until, according to a Clinic spokeswoman, he cut his ties to the fund at the end of October.

    In addition, Dr. Cosgrove will be entitled to royalties for a medical device he developed that AtriCure plans to begin selling next year. Marc Gillinov, another Clinic surgeon who performs the AtriCure procedure, is a paid consultant to the company, as is another doctor who recently left the Clinic.

    Ick. This is no small matter. The Cleveland Clinic is world renowned for its cardiology department. When the doctors there speak, other doctors listen. Maybe the AtriCure device is the best thing going in its field, but it certainly looks suspicious when its top promoters are also profiting from it, does it not?

    I'm no fan of Dr. Eric Topol, the anti-Vioxx crusading cardiologist who had conflict of interest issues of his own, but he's taken a direct hit for standing up to the Clinic on this particular matter:

    All this last spring came to the attention of the hospital's conflict-of-interests committee, where famed cardiologist Eric Topol and blood specialist Alan Lichtin were among those who questioned the ties to AtriCure, according to people familiar with the situation. Dr. Cosgrove last week told Dr. Topol he was losing his top post at the Clinic's medical school, a change that will take Dr. Topol off the conflict-of-interests committee and the Clinic board of governors.

    That doesn't look good, either.

    UPDATE: The Healthcare Renewal Blog has much more.

    UPDATE II: The Philadelphia Inquirer thinks Topol was fired crossing Merck, missing the whole story about the Cleveland Clinic's conflicts of interest.

    posted by Sydney on 12/13/2005 08:32:00 AM 0 comments


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