After years of paying a prominent orthopedic surgeon millions of dollars to train doctors and serve as consultant, Zimmer Holdings dismissed their star surgeon’s concerns about problems with Zimmer NexGen knee replacement systems and cut off their relationship.
In an investigative story in the New York Times, Dr. Richard A. Berger indicates that his relationship with the company disintegrated after he voiced concerns over the safety and durability of the Zimmer NexGen CR-Flex. Dr. Berger claims that when he pointed out that the adhesive-free version of the implant was not fusing to patients’ bones as it should, the company told him that the problem lay with his inability to implant the knee device properly.
Zimmer reportedly paid Dr. Berger more than $8 million over 10 years for orthopedic consultation, then the medical device manufacturer unexpectedly ended its relationship with the doctor last year, the Times reports. The company claims that the decision not to renew his contract was just a regular rotation of consultants, but many believe the action underscores the consequences such prominent doctors face when they speak out against medical device manufacturers who pay them large consulting fees.
Recently, Dr. Berger and another surgeon presented a study at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons annual conference in New Orleans, which suggested that the Zimmer NexGen knee replacement problems resulted in nearly a 10% failure rate.
In early 2008, Zimmer made similar attempts to shift blame for problems with their products to the surgical technique of the doctor. Dr. Larry Dorr, a prominent Los Angeles orthopedic surgeon, presented data to members of the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons in April 2008 about a higher-than-expected rate of revisions among patients who received the Zimmer Durom Cup hip replacement. After initially dismissing Dr. Dorr’s concerns and blaming the surgical technique, Zimmer eventually conducted their own investigation and acknowledged the problems.
A temporary Zimmer Durom Cup recall was issued in July 2008 so that changes could be made to the warnings and instructions provided with the product. The company now faces a number of Zimmer Durom Cup lawsuits filed by individuals who have experienced problems with the hip replacement.
Following the release of Dr. Berger’s study, some product liability lawyers have begun investigating potential Zimmer NexGen replacement knee lawsuits for individuals who have experienced complications, such as loosening of the knee implant or the need for further revision surgery.
Dr. Berger says he has shifted away from the use of Zimmer products after his experience, telling the New York Times that he no longer has confidence in the company’s products.