J&J Paid Kickbacks to Surgeons for Product Exclusivity
DePuy hip replacement recalls forced Johnson & Johnson’s CEO to step down in April 2011. William Weldon, who has led the company for almost ten years, relinquished the top post in the wake of mounting consumer protests. However, he will remain chairman of the board of directors. A few months later in November 2011, a new analysis found that hip device manufacturers, including DePuy, paid millions of dollars as kickbacks to surgeons, according to Bloomberg.
Johnson & Johnson, the maker of the DePuy ASR hip replacement models, is one of the five manufacturers who gave payouts to surgeons in exchange for endorsement and exclusive use of their products, Bloomberg reports. The other manufacturers include Zimmer Holdings Inc., Stryker Corporation, Smith & Nephew PLC and Biomet Inc.
These five companies agreed to pay $311 million to settle the 2007 lawsuit on the kickback issue, instead of facing criminal charges. They also agreed to disclose the consulting agreements with doctors, allowing federal monitors to oversee their actions. Based on data from the Archives of Internal Medicine, the following compensations were made:
- In 2007, $198 million paid out to 939 orthopedic surgeons.
- In 2008, $119 million paid out to 568 surgeons, plus $109 million in royalty buyouts from Zimmer Holdings Inc.
In the case of Johnson & Johnson, there were around 93,000 recipients of the ASR XL Acetabular System and the ASR Hip Resurfacing System worldwide. After the release of data presenting defectiveness in one out of eight patients to whom they were implanted, the two devices were pulled back. These two designs of artificial hip first rolled out of the factory in 2003 and sold to the public. The Australian market for these DePuy devices was subjected of a total pullout in December 2009. In August 2010, DePuy carried out a worldwide recall.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken notice of negative feedback from DePuy clients between 2008 and the time of its recall announcement. Many of these clients need a second hip replacement surgery.
As a metal-on-metal device, the ASR hip replacement system models can go through the typical wear and tear of daily use. But there is an attendant risk of recipients developing metal toxicity from particles flaking off as the metal components rub each other, says a report from the New York Times. The components in those devices can go loose, fracturing bone around the implant, and depositing metal fragments in a recipient’s tissues and circulatory system, media reports say.
DePuy is satisfied that the process “to address the issues raised by this litigation is moving forward,” says its spokesman, Mindy Tinsley. More people are filing a DePuy lawsuit and seeking compensatory damages from suffering encountered while using the hip replacement device.
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