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Australia – Stuart Cain DePuy Tragedy Continues…

This article has been produced to appear in two national newspapers here in Australia in the near future, however the author wanted to share it with the loyal readers of Earl’s blog and would greatly appreciate any feedback as editorial changes are still possible right up until publication time! I know that this is my story, but I hope that each of you who is going through this or anything like it, will feel that you can have the chance to share your story and I encourage you, whether it is through this website or by contacting a media outlet in your local area, please share your story as that is the only way that we can keep these medical companies honest and the people of Australia or whatever country you reside in informed of ‘our plight’!! Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing more from all of you soon and remember as there are many thousands of us out there that are going through this, you are never alone and even though what each of us is experiencing is individual, we each do have some idea of what it is like, so please remember that you always have someone to talk to!!

Stuart Cain

HOW DID THIS HAPPEN IN AUSTRALIA?

I, and I suspect many millions of Australians out there have always been brought up on the idea that we live in the ‘Lucky Country’. We have a free Democratic Government that protects our rights, the most beautiful landscapes, access to the best Education and one of the best Health Systems in the world…or so I thought.

In this country we pride ourselves on our ‘first world’ health system. We have public and private hospital systems that are considered among the world’s best. We have access to the latest research and technology in the field of medicine, much of which is initiated or carried out here in Australia. We also have regulators and professional organisations that are supposedly dedicated to the safety and highest quality care for Australian patients. How very wrong I was!

I am now 42 years old, I have a great deal of difficulty being able to walk, I can no longer work to support my family and I spend my days, and many of my nights as well having to sit in a recliner chair to try to achieve some sort of comfort. All as a result of under-going an operation that many thousands of Australians have each year.

Just over five years ago I was sitting in my Orthopaedic Surgeon’s office and he was explaining to me that I needed a hip replacement. Whilst I was young, it would be a straight forward operation and as I wanted to try to remain active he would be using the De Puy ASR XL hip prosthesis that was distributed by Johnson and Johnson, he said that it was the latest technology and would not only last longer than conventional hips but allow me to return to my active life. I was unaware that at this time there were already problems identified with this hip prosthesis.

This was June 2007, as I worked in the health system and had complete faith in the information I was being given, I accepted what I was told and underwent the surgery within days. As of today I have had three replacement surgeries (with a fourth major surgery now planned), snapped a titanium implant in half by standing up from a chair, developed a chronic form of anaemia, have a femur (thigh bone) that is so degraded through a condition called ‘metallosis’ that it has only one third of the density of the opposite leg, can no longer walk without assistance and suffer intense pain every minute of the day. I have become a ‘shadow’ of the person that my family and friends have known and loved and I spend all my time, day and night in a recliner chair with only time to reflect on how I got here.

I have many questions, firstly, how, in Australia, where we have a regulator for medical devices in the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) did the Johnson and Johnson/De Puy ASR devices continue to be implanted in patients when they were aware of increasing issues with them? As early as 2006, the Australian National Joint Replacement Registry (NJRR) had notified them of increased failure rates with these devices yet the TGA not only failed to remove these devices from the market and stop them being implanted by Surgeons, but they also failed to warn the Australian patients that they are there to protect.

Secondly, how is it that Johnson and Johnson, one of the world’s largest medical device and goods manufacturers, were able to continue to supply a device to the thousands of Australian patients that were unfortunate enough to have an ASR implanted within them? There is overwhelming proof, not least of which are the notifications to Johnson and Johnson by bodies here in Australia and elsewhere in the world, that the ASR was continuing to fail in patients or cause severe complications, yet they continued to market it and simply blamed ‘surgical technique’! In Johnson and Johnson’s “Our Credo” or mission statement, they state “In meeting their (patient’s and doctor’s) needs, everything we do must be of the highest quality”, have they not compromised both morally and ethically in regard to their own promise?

Finally, the peak professional body for Orthopaedic Surgeons in Australia, the Australian Orthopaedic Association (AOA), whilst maintaining the NJRR, did not pursue any further leadership in regard to the ASR devices when they could have been actively warning both surgeons and patients. Initially they blamed the media and patients for creating ‘hysteria’ around the issue, then as more evidence of issues around the device became available they still failed to warn their own members and the patient population of the obvious dangers that the ASR was creating for those who used them.

If this is one example of how our ‘first world’ health system works, then there will be many more patients put in danger, unethical medical companies will continue to thrive, doctors and surgeons will be free to blindly ‘do as they see fit’, the regulator may as well cease to exist and the ‘business’ of health will become the domain of the many law firms charged with carrying out the resultant litigations. For myself, my future is unknown, destroyed by the very people I had hoped would protect me!

Stuart Cain 28/7/12

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