Patients undergoing hip or knee implant surgeries are entitled to more security than they’re getting, according to the Safe Patient Project of Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports.
The policy group called on medical device makers to issue more extensive warranties on hip and knee implants and to promise to offer no-cost revision surgery when an implant fails earlier than expected, pointing to the debacle over metal-on-metal hip implants that has landed many orthopedics companies in court.
Consumers Union issued letters to all the big names in orthopedics, including Smith & Nephew, Biomet, Stryker and DePuy, asking them to offer warranties that would "demonstrate that the company stands behind its product." Biomet is alone in offering a warranty, but it only guarantees a single partial knee implant, according to Consumers Union.
"Patients have a right to know how long medical device manufacturers are willing to stand by their products," Safe Patient Project director Lisa McGiffert said in prepared remarks. "While patients may be told by their surgeon how long a device can be expected to last, they rarely get a guarantee in writing since most hip and knee implants do not come with a warranty."
The warranties would serve a dual purpose, the group noted. They would offer patients some protection and assurance and they would also encourage medical device makers to make better implants. There were 1.2 million hip and knee surgeries in the U.S. in 2011 and that number is expected to increase to 4 million by 2030, half of those in patients under 65, it’s increasingly vital that the products are durable and reliable.
"Medical device companies claim that current law provides adequate protection for patients and that their implants are dependable and safe," McGiffert said. "If that’s the case, they should have no objection to offering warranties to back up those claims. Patients and taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook for the cost of replacing devices when they fail."