I-Flow Corp. Faces 69 Pain Pump Chondrolysis Lawsuits

According to a first quarter earnings report filed by I-Flow Corp., the medical device manufacturer is named as a defendant in approximately 69 shoulder pain pump lawsuits filed by individuals who allege that they developed chondrolysis after arthroscopic surgery.

I-Flow manufactures the On-Q PainBuster post operative pump, which is one of several types of pain pumps that have been identified as the potential cause of permanent cartilage loss in the shoulder when used after arthroscopic surgery.

A study published in 2007 in the American Journal of Sports Medicine found that the intra-articular use the disposable infusion pumps to deliver pain medication directly to the shoulder joint after shoulder arthroscopy can cause the progressive destruction of cartilage, known as post-arthroscopic glenohumeral chondrolysis.

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During the months after arthroscopic shoulder surgery, many patients who were given the pain pumps developed increasing pain, clicking, popping, grinding and decreased range of motion caused by the loss of cartilage. The damage is irreversible and in many cases it results in the need for a total shoulder replacement.

Shoulder chondrolysis lawsuits have been filed against the manufacturers of several different types of pumps, as well as various manufacturers of the medication used in the pumps and physicians who prescribed the devices instead of oral pain medications.

In addition to I-Flow, manufacturers named in lawsuits include Breg, Inc., Stryker Corp., DePuy, Inc., Smith & Nephew, Inc. and DJO, Inc.

I-Flow confirmed during their first quarter earnings report released May 11, 2009, that they have been named in at least 69 on-going shoulder pump lawsuits, although many of the cases also name other device manufacturers, physicians and drug companies as defendants.

For the three months ending March 31, 2009, I-Flow has recorded $1.5 million in litigation and insurance charges related to the lawsuits. The company estimated that the range of “probable potential loss” from the legal proceedings is likely to be between $12.4 million and $89 million, much of which should be covered by insurance.

Last year, in August 2008, the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation denied a petition filed by various plaintiffs to consolidate all shoulder pain pump lawsuits pending in different federal districts before one judge for pretrial litigation.

Although all of the cases involve allegations of the development of shoulder chondrolysis from the pumps, the Panel found that consolidation was inappropriate because of the indeterminate number of different manufacturers and pain medications involved. Therefore, all cases have been proceeding as individual cases, without coordinated discovery.

The first shoulder chondrolysis lawsuit is scheduled for trial to begin July 6, 2009 in Florida involving the use of a Breg pain pump. Many are product liability lawyers and device manufacturers are closely watching this case, as it will likely be representative of issues and damages that could be considered by juries in hundreds of other cases throughout the United States.

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