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DePuy Hip Implant Trial: Doctor Notes

In 2008, a physician consultant sent a note to Johnson & Johnson executives telling them to slow marketing on the DePuy ASR hip implant. The doctor wrote that the Articular Surface Replacement was poorly designed. He was not alone; other doctors also recommended that the company stall hip implant marketing efforts.

Johnson & Johnson did not listen. Instead, the company moved forward and refused to recall the defective medical devices until 2010.

Why didn't the doctors tell other doctors about the hip implant problems? Why did they stay silent when they have an ethical obligation to warn other doctors when a drug or medical device is defective?

Doctors provide many reasons for their reluctance to report medical defects, including:

  • They may fear losing their jobs as consultants
  • They may have received compensation from the company that makes the defective device
  • They may be too busy to file reports with the FDA

Perhaps most importantly, they may fear facing medical malpractice or ridicule from the manufacturer and others in the medical field. Perhaps the product is found to be safe and the surgeons caused the plaintiffs' injuries. Or perhaps the doctors will become victims of smear campaigns.

Then there is the fear that their message will go unheard. According to the New York Times, this is what happened to one British physician who attempted to tell surgeons about the hip implant. Johnson & Johnson executives told him that he was the only doctor having problems and questioned whether it was him, not the device.

If doctors do not speak out, then who should? Unfortunately, like in the DePuy hip implant case, it often falls on the shoulders of the victims to bring forth their story in the court system.

Source: The New York Times, "Doctors Who Don't Speak Out," Barry Meier, Feb. 15, 2013

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