Thursday, April 12, 2012

No More Minnesota Nice

I live in the state of Minnesota, a place where we have the phrase "Minnesota Nice", a phrase that refers to the way that people here avoid confrontation. See or hear something you don't agree with? Simply say "That's different!", and there you go - you avoided the confrontation without agreeing with the other person. That's how come we've elected Michelle Bachman, Al Franken, and Jesse Ventura to political office. We say, "They're different!", and they get elected in because we don't confront them to tell them how weird they are.

But Minnesota nice is not what's going on right now between two of our fine corporate citizens headquartered here - Medtronic and St. Jude. Both are giants in the medical device industry, particularly in the implantable cardiac device industry and right now, there is an intense barrage of Minnesota non-niceness occurring. As heated as things are, I'm surprised the recent weather has been so cold here this past week.

It all started when a paper in the journal Heart Rhythm, authored by a prominent cardiologist stated that 22 deaths had been reported associated with St. Jude's defibrillator leads, but only 5 with the Medtronic product. (If the leads short out, then the defibrillator will not work and the patient dies instead of getting the defibrillation that they needed, or in other cases, cause it to fire when it is not needed.) Well St. Jude shot back by asking that the paper be retracted as it was incorrect. St. Jude also looked at records from the FDA's database and found 377 deaths associated with Medtronic's defibrillor leads (all their leads, not just the one lead that was in the Heart Rhythm paper), but they didn't just stop with touting that number - they went ahead and put all 377 records on their website and then sent out a press release to let everyone know what they thought the numbers should be.

In the mean time, the request from St. Jude for retraction of the paper that started this brouhaha has been denied. I'm not sure how this is all going to exactly end, but let's just note that the lawyers have not been involved. Yet.


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