Greek prosecutors have filed criminal corruption charges against medical device officials who they say bribed state hospital doctors to promote the company’s products. The charges were waged against officials with DePuy Orthopaedics, a subsidiary of consumer health products giant Johnson & Johnson.
Court documents allege that five DePuy officials engaged in bribery and money laundering deals between 1998 and 2006, during which DePuy paid eight Greek state hospital doctors more than $21 million. The doctors – most of whom are orthopedic specialists – have already been formally accused in the same case.
No specific products were cited, however DePuy and Johnson & Johnson are already facing thousands of lawsuits and criminal inquiries have been waged in regards to the company’s metal-on-metal ASR hip replacement system. The device was recalled in 2010 after a staggeringly high number of premature failures. Later, it was revealed that the metal used in the devices could contribute to a potentially lethal type of blood poisoning known as metallosis. The recall affects an estimated 93,000 people worldwide.
Testimony from a U.S. court case currently underway against DePuy and Johnson & Johnson involving the recalled hip implants has revealed that DePuy knew about the problems associated with its artificial hip device three years before the recall was initiated. Company officials chose to ignore the warnings and continue to promote the device until reports of failure were so high that the company was forced to issue a recall.
Since the recall, drug and device regulators in the U.S. and Europe have recommended that metal-on-metal hip implants should no longer be used in patients because of the high potential for injury.