The Supreme Court Friday closed the case seeking action against US-based pharma major Johnson and Johnson for allegedly fitting faulty hip implants, and said that steps have been taken by the Centre to provide compensation of up to Rs 1.22 crore to patients who have been impacted. A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice S K Kaul took note of the steps taken by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on the award of compensation to the aggrieved persons and said that there was "no justification" to keep the petition pending.
The apex court was informed by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, that certain modifications were suggested by two panels, headed by doctors Arun Kumar Aggarwal and R K Arya respectively, on the determination of the quantum of compensation payable to the victims of faulty hip implants and the government has accepted them. The committee "recommended that compensation up to the extent of Rs 1.22 crore approximately can be granted and also the principles/formula for grant of compensation have/has been recommended, which recommendations have been accepted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare," the bench noted in the order.
"In view of the developments that have taken place, we do not find any justification in keeping this matter pending any longer. The same is accordingly closed with the direction that the constitution of the Committee and the principles for the award of compensation have to be given wide publicity to enable all the affected persons to approach the Committee if so advised. The writ petition is accordingly disposed of," it said. The apex court was hearing the PIL of Arun Kumar Goenka alleging that "faulty" and "deadly" hip implants have been fitted into the bodies of 4,525 Indian patients who had undergone the replacement surgeries since 2005.
Earlier, the court had also asked the Health Ministry to apprise it about the actions, if any, taken after an expert committee had allegedly found the pharma firms guilty of "medical negligence". Senior lawyer Salman Khurshid and advocate Vivek Narayan Sharma had referred to the fact that the central government had in 2017 set up a committee headed by Agarwal to look into the aftermath of the disaster caused by the faulty hip implant produced and distributed by the US firm, its Indian subsidiary and DePuy Orthopaedics INC collectively.
"The Committee has found Johnson and Johnson guilty of medical negligence, however, till date nothing has been done to discover a vast number of patients who had undergone a hip transplant," said the plea filed by Goenka, whose mother had died following faulty hip implant surgeries. The plea had sought a direction to the Centre and Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation for taking effective measures to save lives of those who have undergone "DePuy ASR hip implant surgeries and would be unknowingly living a life in hell, if alive or may be dead, due to the negligent acts of respondents".
DePuy Orthopaedics Inc (USA), a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, makes, sells and exports medical implants including articular surface replacements (ASR) hip implants, the plea said, adding that the hip implants have been withdrawn by the firms on their own in 2010 on the ground that they were defective. The firms "illegally sold DePuy ASR Hip Implants in India from 2005 to 2006. In fact, Johnson and Johnson applied for Import license only on December 6, 2006, and was granted license by Drug Controller (India) on December 15, 2006; however, showing contempt and disregard to Indian Laws for safety of Indian Citizens, Respondents (the firms) imported and sold the implants even without Imports License," it said.
The plea, which has sought a SIT probe to oversee the effective measures for implementation of immediate actions to save the lives of patients of DePuy ASR Implants, had referred to the fact that the company had to pay USD 4.40 Billion to over 9,000 victims of faulty implants in the USA and in India no such measures have been undertaken. "As on date more than 1,500 lawsuits are pending in the Federal Courts in the USA for adjudication," it added. The plea has sought a direction to the Centre to advertise about recall implants by the firms and devise a mechanism to ensure the safety of 14,525 Indian Patients who had undergone the hip replacement surgeries since 2005.
(With inputs from agencies.)