New Delhi: Patients fitted with Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J’s) faulty hip implants who are suffering pain and trauma have questioned the credibility of the panel formed by the government to determine compensation for them.
The patients have written to Union health minister J.P. Nadda, seeking his intervention in the issue. They claim that the committee formed by the government “lacks expertise" to compensate for broader harm that the implants have caused. A group of more than 30 patients has also questioned the involvement of the multinational company in the process. They said they are distressed to see the government continuing its consultation with J&J, while patients who suffered grievous injuries “have not been consulted even a single time".
The implant, known as DePuy ASR (where ASR stands for Acetabular Surface Replacement), was sold in India by DePuy International, a unit of J&J, and has come under severe scrutiny of government agencies after a Mint investigation published on 23 August exposed the sufferings of patients who had to go through revision surgeries.
The government swung into action following the revelations and constituted a five-member Central Expert Committee on 30 August to determine the quantum of compensation to be given to patients fitted with faulty hip ASR implants.
The patients were, however, not satisfied by the expert committee. The entire process lacked transparency and followed no proper guidelines, they claimed.
“Given the lack of transparency and guidelines, there are grave concerns about whether the committee will be fair, just, equitable and reasonable in determining compensation," reads the letter, which has been reviewed by Mint. “A committee operating without guidelines, framed through a consultative process...lacks credibility and effectiveness."
The patients also opposed the manner in which the compensation will be calculated, the “lack of expertise" in the panel to compensate for broader harm caused (mental and physical pain, suffering, trauma), and the absence of any representative of the patients.
In 2017, a committee headed by the former dean of Maulana Azad Medical College, Dr Arun Agarwal, was formed by the government to look into the case of alleged faulty hip implants. The committee that submitted its report to the government in February found the ASR hip implants to be faulty, resulting in higher instances of revision surgeries. It recommended that DePuy International Ltd be made liable to pay at least ₹ 20 lakh to each affected patient.
In September, the Union health ministry asked the principal and health secretaries of all states and Union territories to constitute separate state committees so that patients can approach these panels for compensation.
However, according to the patients, “no state level committee has been instituted". “Our apprehension about the compensation process is compounded by several issues, including the lack of clarity about which cases will be considered appropriate for compensation and the documents required to make their claim, the manner in which compensation will be calculated," the letter added.
The patients said they will not participate in the compensation process in its present form. “We are unaware of the outcome of any discussion between the government and J&J. We remain perplexed over the apparent inaction of the government to hold J&J accountable for the harm they have caused to patients, including through criminal proceedings."