Cardiac pacemaker manufacturer Guidant Corp. has brought separate legal actions against two Denver-based consulting firms for improperly using proprietary pricing information in violation of confidentiality agreements. The lawsuits against Aspen Healthcare Metrics, a wholly owned subsidiary of MedAssets, a national group purchasing organization, and Byrne Healthcare, a small, privately owned cardiovascular consulting firm were filed on Aug. 9 in district court in Ramsey County, Minn. In the lawsuit against Byrne, Guidant charged that after contracting with Lakeland Medical Center in Saint Joseph, Mich., for pacemakers manufactured by its affiliate, Cardiac Pacemakers, Lakeland, at Byrne's inducement, breached a contract that included confidential pricing information. Byrne then included the information in its national price benchmarking database, Guidant alleged in the lawsuit. Lakeland was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit. In a letter that went out to an unspecified number of "business partners" on Aug. 11, Guidant officials subsequently explained that the litigation "should in no way be construed as targeted at our hospital and hospital system customers."
Officials at Byrne and Aspen said they believe the lawsuit is baseless. "We feel this is an attempt to shut us down," said Greg Gossett, vice president of Byrne. "This is a worrisome case for hospitals. If a case like this is won, I think hospitals would have to deal with vendors in isolation." As a matter of policy, Guidant officials will not comment on pending litigation, said Annette Ruzicka, a Guidant spokeswoman. -- by Cinda Becker