More Than 150 Lawsuits Over Problems with Shoulder Pumps Filed

There are currently more than 150 shoulder pump lawsuits filed throughout the United States, according to a recent report in the New York Times.

The cases all involve similar allegations that the use of pain management pumps after arthroscopic surgery destroyed the shoulder cartilage for plaintiffs, leaving them with a lifetime of pain and limitations on the use of their shoulders. The lawsuits could be costly for the medical device manufacturers if the first shoulder pump trial is any indicator.

Earlier this month, a jury in Oregon ordered the maker of the I-Flow On-Q Painbuster shoulder pump to pay nearly $4.75 million to a man who developed the progressive loss of cartilage after using the I-Flow pain pump.

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The condition, known as shoulder chondrolysis, has been linked to the intra-articular use of infusion pumps that deliver a combination of pain medications directly into the shoulder during the days after arthroscopic surgery. Although the FDA has never approved the pumps for this purpose, many manufacturers have been accused of encouraging doctors to use shoulder pain pumps instead of oral pain medications.

The condition, known as chondrolysis of the shoulder, has been linked to the intra-articular use of infusion pumps that deliver a combination of pain medications directly into the shoulder during the days after arthroscopic surgery. Although the FDA has never approved the pumps for this purpose, many manufacturers have been accused of encouraging doctors to use shoulder pain pumps instead of oral pain medications.

More than two years after the first published study discussed the problems with shoulder pumps, the FDA required manufacturers of the pumps and the local anesthetics to add new warnings about the risk of chondrolysis in November 2009. The recent warnings were designed to alert healthcare professionals that the use of pain pumps following shoulder surgery to infuse medication directly into the joint increases the risk of chondrolysis, particularly involving the shoulder.

Currently all federal lawsuits over problems with shoulder pumps are being handled as individual claims, without any centralized or coordinated pretrial proceedings. The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation denied a request to consolidate the federal cases in August 2008, indicating that the number of different manufacturers of pain pumps and different medications used in the devices made coordination for pretrial litigation not appropriate. However, attorneys representing plaintiffs in the cases have renewed their request to consolidate the federal lawsuits.

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