New Delhi: A group of patients fitted with faulty hip implants by healthcare giant Johnson and Johnson Pvt. Ltd (J&J) on Thursday rejected the compensation formula devised by a government-led expert committee. The patient group has written to health minister J.P. Nadda, saying they cannot accept the formula that had been devised without consulting them. “Any process relying on this formula will not be able to deliver just and fair compensation to patients and their families, defeating the purpose of the exercise,” said the letter dated 6 December.
Citing that they have been “completely sidelined” and reduced to “mere spectators” in the government-led process of compensating victims, the patients expressed concern about the “lack of transparency”, adding: “On studying the proposed formula, numerous doubts and questions have arisen in our patients group.”
On 29 November, the health ministry approved a formula by which Indian patients suffering from ASR (acetabular surface replacement) hip implants sold by J&J will get up to ₹1.2 crore each and, an additional ₹10 lakh, for “non pecuniary” losses.
However, the patients group led by Vijay Vojhala of Mumbai rejected the formula, saying it has several gaps. “The formula unjustly denies compensation to many patients. Neither does it account for the specificity of patients’ circumstances and medical histories. Its poor formulation renders it incomplete and riddled with ambiguities,” it said. The patients have asked for their views to be heard in order to arrive at a compensation formula which would be just and fair to them.
According to the formula, the experts have recommended a minimum compensation in case of a disability at ₹33 lakh to a maximum of ₹1.2 crore. The formula is based on the percentage of disability, age factor and risk factor. For example, in case the disability is on the higher scale (50%) and the person underwent the hip surgery at a young age of 20, the quantum of compensation will be over ₹1.2 crore. However, if a person underwent a surgery when he/she was 60 years or older, and the disability was measured at 20-30%, they will be entitled to get a minimum of ₹33 lakh.
The experts recommended the use of the Indian Disability Evaluation and Assessment Scale for the assessment and certification of disability.
On 29 November, the health ministry said that patients can “secure compensation from Johnson and Johnson in the days to come”, and added: “Compensation will be paid in a time-bound manner through bank accounts of affected persons by J&J Pvt. Ltd.”
Around 100 people fitted with J&J’s ASR hip implants have already approached the committee for compensation.
The central expert committee examined existing laws such as the Motor Vehicles Act and the rules for injuries or deaths from clinical trials in India to arrive at the formula for determining the quantum of damages.
J&J has been criticized for failing to pay any compensation in India, although it had agreed to pay hefty damages of $2.5 billion to around 8,000 US citizens, who sued the company after receiving faulty hip implants.
Around 4,700 ASR surgeries were carried out in India between 2004 and 2010. However, only 1,080 patients could be traced through the ASR helpline. While the Drug Controller General of India has communicated the formula to the firm, J&J did not respond to an email query sent on 30 November.