The US Department of Justice (DOJ) said that Johnson & Johnson’s DePuy Synthes unit has agreed to pay $9.75m to settle allegations of paying kickbacks to a Massachusetts-based orthopaedic surgeon to use DePuy products in his procedures.

The allegations were a violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) and False Claims Act, stated the DOJ.

DePuy produces and distributes medical devices, including spinal implants.

The settlement resolves claims that the medical device firm breached the AKS and caused the filing of false or fraudulent claims to Medicare. This was alleged to be done by paying the orthopaedic surgeon kickbacks in the form of free spinal implants and surgical instruments like cages, screws, rods, plates and modular access and retraction systems.

The products were intended for use in procedures that the doctor carried out abroad and were part of an effort to persuade him to use DePuy products in procedures performed in the US, the Justice Department said.

The surgeon used more than $100,000 worth of DePuy’s implants and instruments between July 2013 and February 2018 in more than 20 surgeries in Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

According to the Justice Department, the surgeon used the equipment to perform surgeries abroad for patients who weren’t federal healthcare beneficiaries.

Out of the $9.75m payment, about $7.23m will be returned to the federal government and the remaining will be returned to Massachusetts, which co-funded claims for procedures utilising DePuy devices that were filed to the Massachusetts Medicaid programme.

US Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Rachael Rollins said: “Today the United States resolves allegations that DePuy provided over $100,000 worth of free product to a surgeon in order to secure and reward that physician’s continued business.

“Unlawful kickbacks can severely distort medical judgment as well as the market for medical devices. The millions of patients that depend on our health care system deserve untainted medical decisions. This settlement reflects our commitment to stamping out illegal kickbacks.”

As per a report in Reuters, the US-based medical device firm stated that the settlement avoids additional lengthy legal proceedings, and that it was committed to making sure that its employees carry out business in a manner that complies with all laws and regulations.