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‘High Volume’ Doctor for Device-Maker

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When New Mexico cardiologist Demosthenis Klonis was recruited by Mountain View Regional Hospital in Las Cruces in 2005, he was guaranteed a minimum annual salary “in the neighborhood” of $500,000 a year, according to a deposition he gave last year.

How frequently he performed pacemaker insertions is an issue in the malpractice lawsuits pending against him in Las Cruces and Santa Fe.

According to a federal report, 60 Medicare patients received pacemakers at Mountain View Regional Hospital between October 2006 and September 2007 — the period former patient and plantiff Tommy Sowards was treated by Klonis.

Those pacemaker placements accounted for nearly one-quarter of all the Medicare-paid pacemakers implanted in the state during that time period, according to the “Hospital Compare” report published by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

Klonis, during his deposition, said he found the number surprising.

“But the population here is different, too,” he added. “It’s a retirement community.”

“Do you believe the number of folks over 65 here in Las Cruces is, say, equal to the number of folks over 65 in Albuquerque?” asked Sowards’ attorney James Bromberg, who is also a physician.

“I don’t have that information,” Klonis responded.

Klonis also worked at Memorial Medical Center in Las Cruces, where 39 Medicare patients received pacemakers in the same one-year period.

Together, the two Las Cruces hospitals accounted for about 39 percent of the 254 pacemakers implanted in Medicare patients in New Mexico during that time period, the federal report showed.

The latest lawsuits allege that Mountain View records show “the doctor who implanted the most pacemakers during this time was Demosthenis Klonis.”

Klonis, in the Sowards lawsuit, reported that he performed pacemaker placements on 191 Mountain View patients from 2005-09.

A Las Cruces sales representative for Biotronik Inc., which manufactures pacemakers and other devices, described Klonis as the only “high volume” physician for Biotronik devices in the Las Cruces area, according to court documents.

Sales rep Edward Tague said in a January deposition that about 95 percent of his sales came from Klonis patients.

For the year 2009, Tague had $294,502 in gross income, his deposition says.

Tague said he has since “renegotiated” his sales territory to include the Santa Fe area, where Klonis set up his medical practice last year.

Tague said his sales in Las Cruces went from selling an average of “8 to 12 devices a month to selling no devices a month” after Klonis moved north.

By Tague’s estimate, Klonis would have done roughly 100 pacemaker insertions a year, including those paid by Medicare. That was also the estimate from Allen Plymale, a pharmacist who worked in Klonis’ pacemaker research office, court records show.

Klonis’ attorney, Blaine T. Mynatt, called the federal pacemaker figures “misleading.” He said Klonis specializes in electrocardiology, involving electrical impulses of the heart.

“Therefore, it is not uncommon that the bulk of his work relates to pacemakers and other issues surrounding heart impulses.”
— This article appeared on page A6 of the Albuquerque Journal

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