One of the patients revealed that the firm was ‘non committal’ in providing any kind of compensation. Photo: Bloomberg
New Delhi: People facing an ordeal because of ‘faulty’ hip implants will gather in Delhi on 15 September to demand accountability and transparent mechanisms in order to ensure the safety of patients.
These patients have expressed dissatisfaction with the actions taken by the government against pharma giant Johnson and Johnson (J&J) saying there was no transparency. They have also highlighted J&J’s lack of openness about the allegedly faulty design of the implant.
The metal-on-metal, articular surface replacement (ASR) device known as the DePuy ASR, was sold in India by DePuy International, a subsidiary of J&J.
“The mission is to be heard and have a dialogue with the government to know what is happening on the ground,” said Vijay Vojhala, one of the patients.
Vojhala who lives in Dombivali, 50 km from central Mumbai, underwent a hip implant surgery in 2008 when he was 34 years old. In 2012, Vojhala had to undergo a revision surgery after facing complications. Vojhala still cannot squat, run, walk long distances, exercise, sit on the floor or sit for long periods.
Eight years on, in India many patients are still battling the long lasting health problems caused by these implants. “Despite having being dealt a blow by fate, the company and the country’s obdurate bureaucracy are trying their best to stymie our future,” he added.
Vojhala, along with some other patients and former commissioner of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of Maharshtra Mahesh Zagade who has filed a police complaint against the pharma company, will gather in Delhi on Saturday.
All India Drugs Action Network (AIDAN), a health rights advocacy group will also discuss the need for accountable, transparent mechanisms to protect patient safety and prevent similar events in the future.
The patients will share their experiences from J&J’s reimbursement program, issues of delayed action by the regulatory authority, failure to find patients and lack of patient consultation by the government.
The government swung into action after Mint on 23 August exposed the ordeal of the patients by forming a central expert committee and state level committees. Patients now demand that a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry should be initiated by the health ministry against the company.
“We want transparency. There is no involvement of patients as of now in the whole relief mechanism that the government has concluded. We want to be heard before decisions are taken. Whatever we get to know is from the media. A CBI inquiry should have been initiated by the government,” said one of the patients, who did not wish to be named. “I had asked for a CBI intervention back then. Wonder what stopped the government machinery?” asked Mahesh Zagade.
In 2017, a committee was formed under the chairmanship of former dean of Maulana Azad Medical College (MAMC) Dr Arun Aggarwal which had top orthopedic surgeons and legal experts in it. A detailed reconstruction by the committee of J&J’s handling of hips implants, based on interviews suggested that the company provided only reimbursement for recall related revision surgery and no compensation was ever made in India to any patient.
One of the patients revealed that the pharma company was “non committal” in providing any kind of compensation to the affected patients, it only provided the travel, food, and cost of revision surgery to the patients.
“They paid pay for my physiotherapy for a month and then declined to pay later,” said 33-year-old Kabbir Chandhok, another patient.