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Johnson & Johnson’s Use of Contractors to Handle DePuy Hip Implant Recall Raises Questions

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Following a massive, global recall of its metal-on-metal DePuy hip replacement systems, Johnson & Johnson, parent company of the DePuy unit, has hired Broadspire Services to manage the recall of its defective DePuy ASR hip implants.

Mass Device noted amid the fall-out from thousands of lawsuits, Johnson & Johnson hired a third party to both limit its financial outlay and patients’ access to replacement hip devices. The move is considered unusual. Firms like Johnson & Johnson generally handle these matters internally, following physician decisions on the necessity of revision surgery.

With external consultants handling matters for the drug maker, it will be the consultant’s doctors, not the patient physicians, deciding if an implant requires replacement, noted Mass Device. While Broadspire cannot override patient physician decisions, they are managing the finances. This means, if a patient and his/her physician feels revision surgery is needed, and Broadspire says surgery is not called for, the patient might have to dig into his/her own pockets to correct the adverse reactions suffered as a result of being implanted with a defective, all metal hip implant, noted Mass Device.

“Doctors who are evaluating these cases are being paid indirectly by DePuy, and research suggests that even when we are very well-intentioned we can be influenced by conflicts of interest,” Kristin Smith-Crowe, associate professor of management at the University of Utah, told Reuters. “This is a bit of a red flag in terms of the way this situation is set up,” she added, wrote Mass Device.

DePuy disagrees saying, “Similar to the process insurance companies use to evaluate claims from subscribers, medical records are collected by Broadspire if a patient requests financial assistance,” DePuy spokeswoman Lorie Gawreluk said. “… like an insurance provider, Broadspire has a team of reviewers who review claims,” she explained, according to Reuters.

Patients and patient attorneys aren’t buying it and feel the move to defer decisions to a third party is part of a larger plan in the face of over 2,000 lawsuits against the drug maker, said Mass Device. Before the recall was implemented, some 93,000 ASR hip implants were implanted in patients globally, said NewsInferno.

The DePuy ASR Hip Resurfacing System was recalled last year, along with the DePuy ASR Acetabular System, after National Joint Registry of England and Wales data revealed that 12-13 percent of patients implanted with the devices required revision surgery in the first five years. Lawsuits allege the metal-on-metal devices send cobalt and chromium to patients’ bloodstreams, leading to blood and tissue metal levels considered dangerous.

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