BACKGROUND CONTEXT: The Physician Payments Sunshine Act requires manufacturers of drugs, medical devices, medical supplies, and biologics to record all financial relationships with physicians in the Open Payments database with the goal of increasing transparency for patients and the general public. The majority of total money going to orthopaedic surgeons has been found to go to a small number of surgeons in the form of royalties and licensing payments. This category of payment is intended to compensate physicians for use of their intellectual property. However, little research has been done to investigate the degree to which these physicians own intellectual property.PURPOSE: To the authors' knowledge, the association between patents and industry payments to orthopaedic surgeons has not been explored. We quantify the association between the patents and academic productivity of orthopaedic spine surgeons and the amount of royalty and licensing fees they receive. We then compared this with the associations observed for other categories of payments.STUDY DESIGN: Cross-sectional study METHODS: Top royalty and licensing earners, defined as those who collectively earned 50% of all royalty and licensing payments over the period August 2013 - December 2018, were identified. The h-index, publication count, and patent count of this group were compared with top earners of other payment categories using the Mann-Whitney U test. The association between (1) earnings and patent counts, (2) earnings and manuscript counts, and (3) earnings and h-index among the top royalty and licensing earners was assessed using Spearman correlation.RESULTS: Top royalty and licensing earners had significantly more patents than every comparison group except the top earners of money derived from ownership in a biomedical company. For this one exception, there was a trend toward the top 8 royalty and licensing earners having more patents (p?=?0.054). The top royalty and licensing earners had significantly more manuscripts than three of the five comparison groups and significantly higher h-indices than four of the five comparison groups. Among the top royalty and licensing earners, receiving more royalty and licensing payments was associated with holding more patents, but not with publishing more papers or having higher h-indices.CONCLUSIONS: There is a strong association between the number of patents authored by individual orthopaedic spine surgeons and the amount of royalty and licensing fees they receive from industry. This supports the hypothesis that these payments serve as compensation to inventor-surgeons for their intellectual property.CLINICAL SIGNIFICANCE: Our findings provide new, important context for the largest category of industry payments to orthopaedic spine surgeons and suggests that physicians' patents should be considered when evaluating financial transactions between industry and physicians.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.spinee.2020.12.003
View details for PubMedID 33347971