Johns Hopkins intensivist Dr. Peter Pronovost, one of the most visible figures in patient safety, accused Denham of major ethical lapses for failing to disclose the industry money. University of California at San Francisco hospitalist and noted safety expert Dr. Robert Wachter published a 2,500-word blog post excoriating Denham for triggering “patient safety's first scandal.”
Harvard health policy scholar Dr. Lucian Leape said he decided to distance himself from Denham after becoming concerned about the sources of Denham's influence and business funding. Leape added, however, that those mysteries don't invalidate Denham's accomplishments.
“Although he clearly benefited inappropriately, unethically and perhaps illegally, overall, Chuck Denham contributed far more to patient safety by raising awareness and bringing the patient's suffering to attention than his conduct has harmed it,” Leape said.
The U.S. Justice Department alleged that the $11.6 million from CareFusion violated Medicare's anti-kickback law, but Denham has not been charged criminally or named in a lawsuit. The kickback allegation surfaced in a
$40 million legal settlement between the government and CareFusion.
Denham has denied the money included any kind of bribe, saying it came through legitimate contracts to his for-profit healthcare business incubator, Health Care Concepts. HCC's other corporate partners include GE, Johnson & Johnson, Siemens and other firms potentially affected by NQF recommendations.
The Justice Department accused Denham's for-profit company of getting inflated contracts from CareFusion while his not-for-profit organization, the Texas Medical Institute of Technology, wrote and amended two NQF recommendations that encouraged hospitals to buy formulations of sterilization products sold by CareFusion.
“It doesn't matter where the money goes from a company like CareFusion,” said NQF CEO Dr. Christine Cassel. “Even if it wasn't intended to influence the outcome, it should have been disclosed. He wasn't, I don't think, ethical in how he handled that information.”
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