July 1, 2009

Study: Drug raises cost of surgery

The use of bone-growth protein in spine fusion surgery increases the procedure cost by 11 percent to 41 percent, a national U.S. study concludes.

The researchers tracked 328,000 operations performed between 2002 and 2006, The Wall Street Journal reported. The study was published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In surgeries where bone-growth protein was used, the most common one was Infuse, manufactured by Medtronic Inc., the only one with full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. By 2006, Infuse was used in about 25 percent of spinal surgeries, the researchers said.

Dr. Kevin S. Cahill, a neurosurgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and the lead author, said the study looked only at in-hospital expenses. He said researchers are now examining whether

Infuse reduces expense by reducing later complications, something suggested by previous studies done by doctors with ties to Medtronics.

People know bone-growth protein is expensive, but this gives an idea of how expensive, Cahill said.

Some of the added cost of the drug comes from treating side effects, like throat swelling and breathing problems when Infuse is used in the neck.