Today, we launched a campaign calling on the top manufacturers of hip and knee implants to provide warranties that would entitle patients to have defective devices replaced at no cost. A warranty would equip patients with a better understanding of how long an implant is expected to last and clear actions to take if their implant fails. A warranty also will encourage manufacturers to be upfront with patients about the life-expectancy of artificial hips and knees, and make sure these devices are safe and effective before they go on the market. Ultimately, we think warranties will encourage companies to make devices safer and more durable.
Why are warranties important? Hip and knee manufacturers make billions marketing their products to younger and younger Americans. In 2011, there were nearly 1.2 million of these surgeries in the U.S. The demand for hip and knee replacement surgeries is expected to reach 4 million a year by 2030, and more than half of those patients will be under 65 years old. Younger patients will need their implants to last a long time, but the vast majority of knee and hip implants do not come with a manufacturers’ warranty, unlike most expensive products on the market today.
“Patients have a right to know how long medical device manufacturers are willing to stand by their products,” said Lisa McGiffert, director of Consumers Union’s Safe Patient Project. “While patients may be told by their surgeon how long a device can be expected to last, they rarely get a guarantee in writing since most hip and knee implants do not come with a warranty.” (Biomet is the only company that provides a warranty and it covers just one partial knee implant.)
Implants can fail. Our research on hip and knee implant recalls found that all major manufacturers have recalled a product or line of products for defects over the past decade. Hundreds of knee implant components have been recalled since 2003 because they were shipped with the wrong part, a wrong size part, a missing part, etc. Some patients with metal-on-metal hip implants experienced debilitating symptoms from metal debris that flakes off the device over time, including heart damage and neurological problems.
When a patient’s implant fails, it will likely require painful and expensive revision surgery. Without a warranty, it’s unclear who pays for the implant failure: the patient, the insurance company, or Medicare – which taxpayers end up covering. These costs should not fall on patients, their insurance companies or Medicare, but rather, on the maker of the faulty product.
Throughout the campaign, we’ll be collecting stories from people about their hip and knee implants. Read our featured stories to learn how hip and knee implants have affected real people.
For more information about Consumers Union’s warranty campaign, visit our warranty website or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.