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Zimmer Targeting Legal Advertising in NexGen Knee Replacement Fight

Date Published: Monday, August 8th, 2011
Source: News Inferno

Zimmer Holdings is targeting advertising run by plaintiffs’ law firms involved in the litigation surrounding some of its NexGen knee implant components. According to Bloomberg News, the company has filed suit against several and sent letters to others asserting that their legal advertising and internet postings distorted the safety record of its NexGen line of knee implant components.

Zimmer is facing about 78 personal injury lawsuits involving NexGen knee components. As we’ve reported previously, the components include Zimmer NexGen CR-Flex femoral components, Zimmer NexGen MIS tibial components or Zimmer NexGen LPS-Flex femoral components. Recently, plaintiffs filed a motion to have the lawsuits consolidated in a multidistrict litigation.

According to Bloomberg, Zimmer started targeting plaintiffs’ lawyers in January. The company says its campaign is aimed at “trying to correct the record about the 3 million NexGen knees implanted worldwide since 1994.” The legal ads that provoked Zimmer’s started popping up after a 2009 study found one brand of NexGen knee implants was associated with a high rate of revision surgery. The component in the study was the NexGen CR-Flex Porous Femoral Component.

According to Bloomberg, the safety of the CR-Flex Porous Femoral Component was questioned in 2006 by Dr. Richard Berger, an orthopedic surgeon at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and then a paid consultant to Zimmer. In 2009, he and a colleague, Rush University surgeon Dr. Craig Della Valle, released a 108-patient study that found the NexGen CR-Flex Porous Femoral Component had a failure rate of 8.3 percent. Drs. Berger and Della Valle presented the findings at a 2010 meeting of the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeon, but their data wasn’t published in a peer reviewed journal.

According to Bloomberg, records from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration indicate various NexGen knee components have been involved in at least 58 recalls since 2002. All were listed as Class 2 recalls, a category of defects expected to cause only “temporary or medically reversible” health problems, and none involved the NexGen CR-Flex Porous Femoral Component.

Zimmer is targeting legal ads that the company alleges suggested that all NexGen knees were a problem, Bloomberg said. Some of the firms retracted the ads or changed the language to make it more clear which NexGen component was involved. An attorney with one such firm called its decision to agree to a retraction “a business decision to try to get on with things so that this didn’t consume our practice,” and maintained there was nothing inaccurate in its advertising. The same attorney went on to say that the firm regrets the retraction because Zimmer has not dropped a suit against the firm, and that retracting the advertising “encouraged them because they were getting what they wanted.”

A Zimmer spokesperson told Bloomberg that the company hasn’t contacted any firms whose advertising that is truthful and accurate.

Despite the fact that some firms have retracted the ads that Zimmer objected to, some legal experts say the company’s strategy could backfire. One plaintiffs’ attorney told Bloomberg that Zimmer’s campaign has become a hot topic at legal seminars, and may only have attracted more attention to the NexGen knee litigation.