WASHINGTON — A Senate investigation has found that Medicare spent millions of dollars for stents implanted by a Maryland doctor who is accused of putting them in patients who didn’t need them.
The investigation also found the doctor was treated to an elaborate crab feast and barbecue by Abbott Laboratories, the maker of the stents — tiny, metal-mesh tubes used to keep unclogged arteries open.
A report released by the Senate Finance Committee said Dr. Mark Midei’s questionable implantations cost the Medicare program $3.8 million between 2007 and 2009. Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, said the case could be a sign of widespread wasteful use of medical devices.
“Doctors should not be performing invasive medical procedures patients don’t need, and taxpayers certainly shouldn’t be paying for these wasteful and improper implantations,’’ he said.
The report said Abbott placed Midei on its list of top stent-volume cardiologists. After St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson, Md., barred Midei from practicing there, the company hired the doctor to promote and prepare safety reports for its stents in Japan and China.
Midei’s attorney, Stephen L. Snyder, said the investigation was not thorough.
“I don’t believe they made any findings and to suggest that having a barbecue at one’s house implies some type of favoritism is ridiculous,’’ Snyder said.
The report also contained excerpts of e-mails from Abbott executives discussing how to contain negative news coverage.
“Do I need to send the Philly mob?’’ a senior Abbott employee asks in one e-mail.
Abott said patients are its highest priority.