J&J refusing to meaningfully compensate the victims of its faulty hip implants in India is condemnable
Johnson & Johnson (J&J), the American pharma, is in the eye of a storm of its own making, having refused to compensate over 1,000 Indians who are suffering from severe pain, mobility restriction, metal toxicity in blood, and reproductive complications as a result of having Articular Surface Replacement (ASR) hip implants from a J&J subsidiary in their bodies. The implant was found to be leaking cobalt and chromium into patients’ bloodstream, and was recalled in 2010—the company became liable to pay for replacement surgeries. While as many as 4,700 Indians are reported to have received faulty hip implants between 2004 and 2010, so far, only 1,080 have been tracked, many of whom were unaware of the fault in the product or the compensatory corrective surgery J&J was sponsoring. In relation to this, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation curated a list of 250 individuals who were to receive a compensation package ranging between Rs 30 lakh and Rs 1.23 crore per head, based on a formula that factored in extent of harm, age, etc. However, J&J argued that the formula for compensation was opaque, and in an independent investigation came up with a list of 67 patients eligible for a compensation of Rs 25 lakh.
Even as the central government takes on J&J in a legal battle at the Delhi High Court, the pharma giant has refused compensatory payment to Indian patients who received its Pinnacle implant and suffer from the same complications as their counterparts with the ASR implant. This, when J&J agreed to pay $1 billion to settle as many as 6,000 lawsuits filed by US patients who had used its faulty Pinnacle model early in May this year. J&J is claiming that the Pinnacle model was not recalled, but only withdrawn, in India to reduce its liability, and asserting that there are no cases of Indian patients suffering adverse effects from usage of its Pinnacle implant despite independent investigations finding an increasing number of such people, many of whom have tried to contact the company, only to be stonewalled. The prejudice shown by J&J in its attitude towards the well-being of its Indian customers is condemnable, especially against the backdrop of its action in the US.