Monday, March 4, 2013

Investigations into Johnson & Johnson's marketing practice - the ongoing saga of unregulated medical devices

One thing has led to another as the US Department of Justice launched an investigation into the marketing practices of the large medical device manufacturer Johnson & Johnson. At the heart of it is the number of recalled hip replacement products since 2010. Gigamole has blogged about this before.

Do not for one moment believe this will put a dent into J&J's marketing strategies. The company is no stranger to these financial penalties. It, like many other companies, have considerable sums of money set aside to cater for these penalties. After all these, Gigamole is sure the company will still be in the black. Two years ago, J&J was forced to pay off US$78 million for having paid bribes and kickbacks. Apparently bribing orthopaedic surgeons is a common practice among device manufacturers. In a report in the Archives of Medicine in 2011, the authors reported on 5 device manufacturers (Zimmer, DePuy Orthopaedics, Biomet, Smith & Nephew and Stryker) who had paid out, in 2007 alone, US$198 million to 939 orthopaedic surgeons.

Which is why medical devices need to be regulated. HSA is being very unwise in leaving medical devices unregulated, because in so doing, they are leaving the patient-consumer at the mercy of the device manufacturers. It is foolish and naive to believe that industry have anything else on their agenda than to generate profit for their shareholders.

To date however, the problems of the recalled De Puy hip replacement devices in Singapore remain unresolved. The HSA appears unwilling to take a strong public position about this. And patient-consumers remain unprotected.

Gigamole wonders when HSA is going to do the right thing?