NEW DELHI - A government panel has recommended that Johnson & Johnson (J&J) pay compensation of at least $28,500 to each Indian patient who suffered from artificial hip implants the U.S. healthcare firm recalled eight years ago.
The ASR hip implants were recalled in 2010, after data suggested they failed at a higher-than-expected rate. In 2013, the firm agreed to pay nearly $2.5 billion to settle thousands of lawsuits from those in the United States who said they were injured by the implants. (http://reut.rs/I20AZB)
In India, J&J paid $2 million to patients for repeat surgeries and about $250,000 in related diagnostic costs under its ASR reimbursement programme, but the panel criticized the company for offering no compensation.
"The fact remains that no compensation ever has been made by the firm in India to any patient," the panel said in a 118-page report released late on Tuesday.
The panel was set up by the federal health ministry, which has said it is reviewing the report.
In a statement, J&J said its unit did not have access to data on patients who received implants because of patient confidentiality regulations, but it had given "top priority" to supporting ASR patients.
"The company has always put the health and safety of ASR patients first in everything we do," it said.
About 93,000 people worldwide received ASR implants, the panel said, about 4,700 of them in India.
Metal hip implant systems such as ASR were designed to be more durable than a traditional metal-on-plastic ball-and-socket design. But many Indian patients suffered adverse reactions from the implant, the panel said.
It also criticized J&J for being "evasive" in sharing information on ASR's design with it. Only in 2015, five years after the ASR recall, did the company run newspaper notices in India about the move.
"(This) shows the negligent behaviour of the firm to reach out to the affected patients," the panel said, calling for periodic advertisements to raise patient awareness about the implants.
J&J denied the panel's assessment, saying its unit had not been evasive and had "fully cooperated with the expert committee in their investigation".
The panel findings, first reported by Indian media last week, have sparked a public relations crisis for the U.S.-based company, which has also faced criticism from patient rights activists.
J&J "has the responsibility to track patients, make them aware of the adverse effects and compensate them," said Oommen C. Kurian, a health researcher at the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation.