For a long time, the four manufacturers of hip and joint replacements that controlled 75% of the market were laughing all the way to the bank. These four companies – Stryker, Biomet, Du Puy and Zimmer – have been beneficiaries of a dysfunctional health care “system” that has no financial interest in healing patients.
In fact, according to Dr. Andrew Weil of the University of Arizona and medical journalist Shannon Brownlee, the entire U.S. healthcare “system” is nothing more than a cash cow for a few large medical device and pharmaceutical manufacturers. The focus is on “treating and retreating” chronic conditions that are largely preventable. Brownlee told a San Diego reporter that the system “doesn’t want you to die and it doesn’t want you to get well” - because there's no profit in either.
It makes one wonder if the “Big Four” manufacturers of hip replacement devices actually did know about their products' defects in hopes their customers would have to come back for more. Gregory Demske, who is the assistant inspector general for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, these four companies paid “physician consultants” in excess of $200 million a year over a four year period between 2002 and 2006.
At the same time, Glaxo-Smith Klein was raking in $3-4 billion annually on its diabetic drug Avandia – despite the fact that clinical trials showed patients being treated with this medication ran a 30% great risk of cardiac arrest.
For better or worse, the chickens are coming home to roost for these companies. According to a press release on SF Gate, over eighty lawsuits against Stryker have consolidated and assigned to the Honorable Judge Brian Martinotti of the Bergen County (New Jersey) Superior Court. He is no stranger to hip device litigation; Judge Martinotti was selected in 2011 to oversee litigation in connection with the Du Puy ASR hip replacement system. Du Puy Orthopaedics recently took major hit by a Los Angeles jury, who awarded a Montana plaintiff $300,000 in compensatory damages and $8 million for pain and suffering.
Meanwhile, cases against other hip replacement manufacturers are gathering steam. In early March, an Indiana judge denied a request by lawyers for Stryker to dismiss the case against the company. At the same time, a plaintiff with a case against Zimmer will be hounding those defendants from beyond the grave; civil action against the company will continue despite the plaintiff's untimely passing due to unrelated causes.
According to a number of websites maintained by litigation firms involved in civil actions against Du Puy Orthopaedics, the division's parent company has set aside over $900 million to settle cases pending against it. It's still a relatively small percentage of the company's profits, and it is virtually a given that no human being will go to jail. The most unfortunate aspect of the whole thing is that all none of the litigation against these companies as well as pharmaceutical firms will do anything to attack the root of the entire problem: a health care infrastructure that places profits above all – even human life.
Until that particular parasite has been utterly destroyed, we can all expect more of the same.
Donaghy, Neil. “Second DePuy ASR Hip Lawsuit Underway in Chicago.” Injury Lawyer News, 25 March 2013. Available at http://injurylawyer-news.com/2013/03/second-depuy-asr-hip-lawsuit-underway-chicago/.
Hart, Hon. Judge William R. “Jori A. Greybill, As Independent Executor of the Estate of Mary Jo Ott, Deceased v. Zimmer.” U.S. District Court for the Northern Distric of Illinois Eastern Division. Opinion and Order, 14 March 2013.
Lawrence, John. “Hospitals to US Citizens: Your Money or Your Life.” San Diego Free Press, 22 March 2013. Available at http://sandiegofreepress.org/2013/03/hospitals-to-us-citizens-your-money-or-your-life/.
Tucker, Wilma. “Judge Rejects Defendant’s Argument in Stryker Hip Implant Lawsuit.” Injury Lawyer News, 7 March 2013. Available at http://injurylawyer-news.com/2013/03/judge-rejects-defendants-argument-stryker-hip-implant-lawsuit/.