Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/washington/news.aspx?id=129353
Story Retrieval Date: 5/20/2013 2:43:35 PM CST
According to an analysis of Department of Defense travel expense documents by Medill News Service and the Center for Public Integrity, Dr. Timothy R. Kuklo traveled for Medtronic when he was a staff surgeon and later the director of orthopedic surgery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. Before retiring from the Army in March 2007, he had taken trips costing nearly $14,000 on Medtronic’s tab.
Kuklo, 48, made false claims in a British medical journal published last year that a bone graft product sold by Medtronic was more effective in treating leg injuries in wounded soldiers at Walter Reed than doctors there actually witnessed.
This week Walter Reed officials released documents that confirmed a New York Times report that the hospital had conducted an investigation into Kuklo’s study and discovered that the number of patients and injuries he cited were greater than reported by the hospital.
Of Kuklo’s 16 Medtronic-sponsored trips while in the Army, the two most expensive trips were in 2002, one to Scottsdale, Ariz., costing $1,335 and one to Chicago totaling $1,325. He also took trips to Denver, Dallas, San Francisco, three others to Chicago and two to Memphis.
Kuklo has given speeches to doctors around the country on the merits of Medtronic’s bone graft product Infuse, the same product he falsely claimed had a 92 percent success rate in healing shattered legs of wounded soldiers injured in Iraq, and Medtronic has supported his research, the Times reported.
Kuklo’s study was retracted in March after paper’s publisher, The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, received notification from Walter Reed questioning the validity of the report’s conclusions.
“It was further disclosed that much of the paper was essentially false,” the retraction read.
Additionally, four doctors listed as co-authors on the report said they had not seen the manuscript prior to publication, and their signatures were forged on the article before its submission. Lt. Colonel Romney Andersen, one of the listed co-authors, had originally notified Walter Reed officials of his concerns about Kuklo’s study.
“None of the others listed in the article had ever seen the article until it appeared in publication,” reads a December 2008 letter from a Walter Reed investigator to the president and CEO of Medtronic. “Once the article was reviewed by the other alleged co-authors, there were a number of serious questions raised by them about the validity of the information and the conclusions made in the article.”
Calls to Kuklo and Medtronic were not immediately returned.
In his study, Kuklo looked at 129 soldiers with lower leg injuries – all male and between the ages of 20 and 42 – and reported that those treated with Infuse had a success rate of 16 percentage points higher than those who had more conventional treatment, according to an abstract of the study. Infuse releases a bone-growth protein found naturally in the human body and encourages the body’s own bone-building processes.
A Medtronic spokeswoman told The New York Times that the company had not financed Kuklo’s study.
In 2006, the Justice Department accused Medtronic of making illegal payoffs to doctors for using its spinal devices. The company reached a $40 million settlement with the federal government but denied any wrongdoing.
Kuklo is an associate professor of orthopedic surgery at Washington University in St. Louis. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1983 and went on to attend medical school at the University of Connecticut and law school at Georgetown University. He worked at Walter Reed until his retirement from the military.
Washington University will conduct its own independent investigation of Kuklo, the executive summary of the Walter Reed investigation says. Walter Reed also noted that there is no pending litigation involving the allegations against Kuklo.