As I assume the role of AME President again, I take the reins from Dr. Scott Lederhaus. His courageous and pioneering leadership of the last few years saw AME return to the halls of the U.S. Senate as he testified against Physician Owned Distributorships (PODs). Currently, I find that we are in the middle of a controversy stimulated by this testimony.

Investigations undertaken by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) along with previous rulings and opinions began after AME’s strong and vocal public opposition to PODs. These government-led inquiries resulted in the November 2015 Congressional hearings and allowed us to voice our opposition, albeit in a very solitary way. Once again, much like our stance for the Sunshine Act, our position as whistleblower was necessitated by our view of PODs as outrageous and harmful to patient care in a way that is covert to the public.

Since many physicians profit from their relationships and participation in PODs and these distributorships seem to discreetly and profitably co-exist with many hospitals, there is certainly some hostility to our position. Most physicians involved in these PODs fly under the radar by design and with the desire to not be found out. So, we have found their opposition is covert as well.

The alarm bell on PODs was publically sounded with our Symposium last year- the contents of which are linked here on the website. I, as well as Dr. Lederhaus, spoke, as did my Chairman of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of California, Irvine Medical School, Dr. Ranjan Gupta, who authorized and encouraged the event. Since that time, the opposition has been on the attack.

The opposition is composed of physicians making large amounts of money as distributors and salesmen by self-referring spinal implants and other medical devices. However, we are also seeing, these profitable financial arrangements are quietly allowed by hospitals that clearly know of the practice, but are not wishing or willing to lose the patients those doctors bring to their facilities. Finances take precedent over patient care.

Hospitals should ban PODs, but only an infinitesimally small number do, including many university hospitals that may require disclosure but exhibit tacit acceptance.

AME will continue its mission of transparency for the public and will not weaken in the face of overt and covert opposition. Our support from patients and ethically outraged physicians strengthens our resolve.