This morning I spotted an article in The Telegraph about how patients may have been fitted with faulty hip replacements due to a manufacturing error at the De Puy plant. According to the article De Puy is not being exactly responsive in answering questions on this and may have known about the problem for some time. Ill fitted hip replacements can be very painful for patients and can even be a patient safety issue.
For me a few things sprung out of this issue. First and foremost no healthcare manufacturer should ever ignore potential patient safety issues and if De Puy knew about this flaw they had a duty of care to their patients to inform the regulators so that said patients could be closely monitored for potential problems. We were all appalled by the recent car scandal where manufacturers lied and tried to ignore a manufacturing fault – but if De Puy did knowingly ignored this problem then they too deserve the same villification, if not more. After all here we are talking about surgically implanted devices not cars – and a potential direct risk to patient safety. After the healthcare’s efforts to address its reputation problems I will also be disgusted if this turns out to be another example of “big bad pharma” (whilst De Puy is a device company it is owned by pharma’s J&J).
Shocked at this news post I naturally went straight to the company’s home page to see if there was more news. Afterall if I were a patient or had a member of the family with a De Puy hip joint I would presume that the company has posted something to their website to provide me with information. I would also do the same if I worked for the media btw. I was therefore very shocked at what I found on their website.
According to their website they are inspired by us (I read that as including patients) and listen to patients and yet there is no option for patients on the website! As the image below shows they are only interested in HCPs, job seekers and vets. What about the poor patients? And indeed what about the general public and media?
In this day and age not having a general information website open to the public is questionable to say the least. This is doubly the case for devices which do not face the same strict regulatory requirements as pharma. Now clearly HCPs are the company’s main stakeholders, which is fair enough, but with most people now turning to the internet for information, including patient’s friends and family, it seems ludicrous not to offer up some general information about the product that is going to be surgically implanted into the patient. My mother is likely to need a hip replacement in the near future and I will want to know all the details about the product, including the manufacturer, and I will visit their website and expect to find information there.
This is of course also an issue today with new of a faulty product hitting the news. How can I trust a company that is apparently selling faulty hip replacements but refuses to acknowledge its end users the patients? How can I trust a company that refuses to communicate with me – even if only to tell me that due to regulatory requirements they cannot share certain information?
The other thing I did was to check their Twitter handle – again an issue like this raises questions I want to ask the company via my medium of choice, i.e. social media. Whilst it looks like someone has secured the Twitter handle that is as far as it goes. Whether it is De Puy or someone else who owns this is unclear but either way this looks bad on De Puy. Firstly if someone else has secured the handle then shame on De Puy for not having noticed this and resolved this issue. If it is their handle then at least take ownership and make it look formal and just state that you have not launched it yet. As it is it just further adds to my bad impression of De Puy.
I know I am just an insignificant carer and my mother just another patient but I for one will be talking to my parents about this and suggesting that if their surgeon suggests a De Puy product they ask for other options. I for one do not trust this company to insert a device into my mother. I wonder how many other carers and patients will feel the same as a result of today’s news and today’s lack of transparency from De Puy?