Zimmer Hip Lawsuits Show that Latest Isn’t Always the Greatest
A recent article in The New York Times (June 25, 2011) reviewed the “American impulse to covet the new and improved,” and how that impulse has encouraged speedy innovation not only in computers, smart phones, and cars, but more recently in medical devices like the metal-on-metal (MOM) hip implant.
Unfortunately, in the world of medicine, the latest is not always the greatest, to which many victims of Zimmer hip implant problems will attest. The Times points to a lack of real-world clinical trials for these devices, which to date, has led many to file a Zimmer hip implant lawsuit to recover damages. The answer may lie not only in improved pre-market testing and more cautious, phased-in introductions, but in doctor and patient attitudes about what’s “best” in medical treatments.
New but defective hip implants reach markets
Marketing the latest innovation is one way for manufacturers to gain a competitive edge. One can hardly get a new technological device home before an update takes its place. Manufacturers of pharmaceutical drugs and medical devices have embraced a similar approach, churning out new products to improve the bottom line, sometimes, before those products are found completely safe, or for that matter, truly superior to the old ones.
Such was the case with the Zimmer hip implant, which despite early warnings of possible metallic poisoning, was marketed as a great idea because it would let younger patients do more strenuous physical activities. Doctors were attracted as well, using the new implant to gain an edge over their competition. Patients, hearing about all the benefits and few of the risks, were eager to get the new and supposedly “better” implant for themselves. Today, many of those same patients have filed a Zimmer hip lawsuit, claiming the manufactures failed to point out the risks of Zimmer hip implant problems.
How to reduce future Zimmer hip implant problems?
Now faced with what the Times refers to as the “clean-up” phase, “[r]egulators, researchers, and companies must assess the damage caused, and determine how to undo it.” Looking for someone to lead the way, many have turned to the FDA.
The FDA approved the Zimmer hip implant through the 510(k) process, which allows new or modified medical devices shown to be very similar to current devices to gain expedited approval. The idea is to avoid lengthy delays for devices that are substantially equivalent to those already on the market. The process is also cheaper for the manufacturer, but as has been shown to be the case in many Zimmer hip lawsuits, it fails to subject the device to the detailed scrutiny that may have detected critical defects prior to marketing.
Will the FDA change 510(k)?
In August of 2010, the FDA issued more than 60 proposed changes intended to improve medical-device safety, but so far nothing has been decided. In recent months, according to the Times, they seemed to have backed away from their aggressive approach to change, and have asked the Institute of Medicine to review their device-approval process. Meanwhile, plaintiffs will continue to blame manufacturers for their Zimmer hip implant problems, and perhaps as more Zimmer hip lawsuits go to trial, companies will learn that a new hip implant is not a new smart phone, and must be proven safe first and foremost.