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Defective medical devices are not limited to those implanted in a patient's body. Patients who must use canes, wheelchairs, or other devices to get around are susceptible to a whole array of device warnings and risks that other Americans are not. According to The Baltimore Sun, it is imperative to maintain wheelchairs and walkers as you would a car, as a lack of proper maintenance can result in unsafe conditions such as broken or bent parts. If the device is broken, it can result in the requirement of extra energy to get around, more pain, or—worst-case scenario—a devastating accident that can result in hospitalization.

The onus of maintaining these devices is not, however, solely the responsibility of the patient. Sometimes these devices, and machinery used in conjunction with them, are not properly built or vetted before it is put on the market. One such incident occurred earlier this year, when a California-based manufacturer was ordered to pay a $1.75 million civil penalty for continuing to sell faulty wheelchair lifts. The lifts were recalled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), according to an agency report, as they had been labeled as potential fire hazards. Even after the recall was announced, the manufacturer, Rincon Corporation, continued selling the lifts to the public.

More than 4,000 Rincon lifts had been sold to manufacturers of buses and vans to help meet the transportation needs of wheelchair-bound patients. The recall was first announced in September 2012 because the lifts contained a defective cable determined to increase the risk of starting a fire. When the NHTSA followed up with the van and bus companies in 2013 to make sure that Rincon had informed them of the recall, the administration found that though Rincon had stopped producing the defective lifts it had not stopped selling them. Rincon later reported that it had sold 356 defective lifts after the recall had been issued.

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When most patients go in for surgery—especially serious surgeries like knee replacements—they are not concerned with the materials that doctors use. Most patients trust that their doctor is the expert, and will do what is necessary to ensure that the patient can recover quickly and well. Yet sometimes shady business deals are at fault for surgeries gone wrong, and doctors are helpless to remedy them. Such is the case with a device that until very recently was used to aid with knee replacement surgery, the OtisKnee, distributed by OtisMed Corporation.

In December, according to The New York Times, the former CEO of OtisMed pled guilty in a New Jersey federal court to criminal charges of distributing adulterated medical devices. The OtisKnee was not cleared by the Food and Drug Administration before OtisMed began to distribute and sell the device to American hospitals, and 18,000 of the adulterated devices were sold and distributed between 2006 and 2009. The device was marketed as one that would speed knee surgery and aid in patient recovery, but many patients experienced the exact opposite. In one case, a woman experienced intense and lasting pain after the surgery, and ended up having to have a second knee replacement. Another patient said that the revelation that the device that had been used was likely at fault for her persisting knee problems made her feel like she “had been a guinea pig.”

The Times reports that had it not been for a whistleblower, presumably at OtisMed, the public may never have been made aware that this device was being distributed without FDA approval. Knee replacements are the most common elective surgery performed in the U.S.—roughly 700,000 such operations are performed annually. The FDA medical device approval process is long and arduous, and can cost thousands of dollars for the company attempting to have a single device approved. According to the Times, OtisMed, a California-based start-up, saw an opening in a crowded market. While doctors and other experts say that the device is a good idea, because it was not fully vetted by the FDA, it was never decided if the device was actually able to perform the function it purported to do.

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The benefits and risks of mammography screening have long been debated in the scientific community. According to the National Cancer Institute, while screening may be effective in reducing the number of deaths from breast cancer through early detection of a cancerous tumor, it can, at the same time, cause harm to the woman who is participating. The most common limitations of breast cancer screening can include false-positives, overdiagnosis, false-negatives, discomfort, radiation risk, and anxiety.

Yet a new medical device approved in February by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, may alleviate some of the risks posed by mammograms, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC). The device, which passed the FDA's most stringent premarket approval process, was developed by a URMC startup company, Koning.

The Koning Breast CT system is intended to diagnose cancer in women who have signs or symptoms of the disease, and those who have abnormal findings after a standard mammogram. As of right now, it is not intended to replace annual screenings, yet the use of the new device may help to alleviate the risks of overdiagnosis or false-positives. Because it is also the first breast imaging device that allows for a readable picture without compression of the breast tissue, the Koning Breast CT system is also a more comfortable procedure for patients undergoing treatment.

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Though the manufacturer has come under fire for defective devices in the past, this year the da Vinci Sp Intuitive single port robot system used in surgical procedures is expected to hit the consumer market, according to MedGadget.com. The system is designed to allow for single-incision surgeries, and is a competitor to manufacturing giant Titan. The system was first introduced as a prototype more than five years ago, but only received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last year.

The first da Vinci Intuitive surgical robot was introduced more than a decade ago. When the company first went public, 15 years ago, it posted $10 million in annual sales, though the robot had only been used on 600 patients worldwide. The machine was thought by the medical professional community to be a great symbol of technological surgical advance, and, according to ModernHealthcare.com, “one of the most coveted status symbols of 21st-century medicine.” Yet the $2.3 million machine caused serious side effects and even injury in several patients, due to a disregard for patient safety on the part of the manufacturer and aggressive marketing tactics that often preceded patient testing.

As of 2013, according to ModernHealthcare.com, da Vinci was facing 25 product liability lawsuits. Many of the lawsuits allege that the manufacturer failed to properly train surgeons on how to use the innovative machine, and instead pushed through patents and marketing efforts before hospitals were equipped enough to handle the new technology.

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Last year, a Supreme Court ruling came down that will affect thousands of Americans, even if they were not aware of the ruling. Building on a ruling that declared manufacturers of medical devices could, in some cases, enjoy immunity status if the device turned out to be defective, last year's case determined that no patient could challenge a manufacturer in state court if it had been approved at the federal level. According to Forbes, the ruling is a big win for medical product manufacturers and a loss for American consumers.

The ruling, which, according to Forbes, outlines that “state lawsuits claiming drugmakers failed to adequately design their medicines cannot proceed because they are pre-empted by federal law,” was based on a 2004 incident in which a New Hampshire woman was left unable to see, work, or eat without a feeding tube. The woman had taken a generic non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, but later developed Stevens-Johnson Syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis. A lower court ruling awarded her $21 million in damages. The manufacturer of the drug, Mutual Pharmaceutical, argued that the decision should be overturned because the FDA had already approved the drug.

Mutual pointed to a 2011 ruling which determined that generic drugs were not required to change product labeling if alerted to side effects of which they were not previously aware.

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