In the early 1980s, seven people were killed in Chicago after taken Tylenol pills which had been laced with cyanide by an unknown saboteur. The pills were manufactured by Johnson & Johnson which acted swiftly and removed millions of bottles of the pills from stores, not knowing how many bottles may be affected.
However, during the scandal involving defective hip implants manufactured by J & J’s orthopaedics unit DePuy, the company’s actions were less laudable. Over 90,000 patients worldwide were implanted with the dysfunctional metal-on-metal hip devices until its 2010 recall despite company executives knowing that the product was flawed for years beforehand.
10,750 injured recipients of the devices in the US have since sued J & J with the first trial concluded recently. The Los Angeles court ordered J & J to pay over $8 million in compensatory damages after ruling that the ASR was defectively designed and responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries.
With people living longer, manufacturers stand to make a lot of money from hip implants and the ASR was marketed as a more hard-wearing alternative to other devices available. However, the ASR has since been found to have a failure rate between 35 and 40% within 5 years. This is largely due to the flawed design of the product. The metal parts of the device rubbed together, causing metal debris to enter the blood and tissue around the hip. This caused the hip to become unstable and meant that patients whose hips should have lasted around 15 years required painful follow-up surgeries.
At the first trial, jurors heard evidence that J & J executives knew about the problems associated with the product years before the 2010 recall. Doctors from the Netherlands, Australia and US all warned in emails and letters that the ASR may put patients at risk. Yet, despite receiving such warnings from 2006, J & J continued to advertise the ASR which it claimed to be 99.2% failure proof in one ad.
Sadly, J & J did not match the high standards in response to the DePuy ASR scandal that it set after the Tylenol incidents. Many patients have been harmed as a result and J & J will probable lose billions of dollars in compensation claim payouts.
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