Activists term compensation as eyewash, say the case is still on
The Delhi High Court on May 30, 2019, directed American multinational Johnson and Johnson (J&J) to pay Rs 25 lakh each to 67 patients in the faulty hip implants case. The amount has to be disbursed within two weeks.
The case relates to Articular Surface Replacement (ASR) hip implants that were done on 4,700 Indian patients between 2004 and 2010. Only 1,080 patients have been traced till date. In 2010, J&J recalled its implants as they showed the presence of chromium and cobalt metals that cause toxicity as they mix with the bloodstream.
The Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation had provided the pharma major a list of more than 250 patients, who had undergone revision surgery after having got the faulty implants, as being eligible for compensation.
However, J&J did an independent verification and said only 67 patients were eligible. It also said in court that if more names were provided, it would verify them and if found eligible by it, they would also be compensated.
It may be mentioned here that the Central government had come up with a compensation formula for the patients ranging between Rs 30 lakh and Rs 1.23 crore, depending on age, degree of disability and various other factors. However, J&J contested this and said it would pay Rs 25 lakh each to the patients as a full and final settlement. The government rejected the offer and the pharma major went to court.
The government had formed two committees to look into this issue. The Agarwal Committee had looked into the technical issues related to faulty implants while the R K Arya Committee decided on the quantum of the compensation.
J&J challenged the reports of both these committees, and also the powers of the Centre to form these committees in the last hearing of the case. It had said it would rather voluntarily pay Rs 25 lakh each to the affected patients according to the list provided by the government.
Malini Aisola, co-convenor of non-profit All India Drugs Action Network, who has been following the cause of the patients told Down To Earth (DTE), “This amount of Rs 25 lakh is a voluntary offer from the company. This is not the final judgement and the case is still going on.”
She added, “If the government wins the case, and the court says the formula approved by the government is correct, then the company will have to pay remaining amount to the patients. However, if the government loses the case, this amount would remain non-refundable according to the court’s order of today.”
Aisola said the offer made by J&J on May 30 was an eyewash as there was no clarity about how it selected 67 patients and left the remaining ones from the list provided by the government itself.
“Moreover, neither the government nor the company considered the cases of those who could not undergo a revision surgery due to different reasons like not knowing a revision surgery was being offered or not being medically fit for such a procedure. They have been left out for no fault of theirs,” said Aisola.
The case was heard by a single bench of Justice Vibhu Bakhru. The next date of hearing is August 8.
DTE reached to J&J for its comments. The response is awaited.
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