Fauber: FDA to review data on jaw implants

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel‘s reporter John Fauber reports on the FDA’s order to review the long-term performance of certain joint implants. Fauber’s story on the agency’s failure to adequately test and regulate these products came out in late November.


Photo by Jacob Enos via Flickr

The implants in question treat certain ailments affecting the joint that connects jaw and head, a disorder Fauber says “affects more than 10 million Americans, including a small number who undergo radical surgery to implant an artificial jaw joint.” And those people, Fauber reported and the FDA now acknowledges, have had a rough time in the long term.

Among the medical device reports it has reviewed, 52% of the devices that had to be removed were taken out less than three years after they were implanted, the agency said in an e-mail to the Journal Sentinel.
Device problems included the need for removal or replacement, loosening, difficulty removing, noise, fracture and breaking, the FDA said.
Patient problems included pain, surgical procedure or repeat surgical procedure, additional therapy and nonsurgical treatment or treatment with medication, infection, swelling, hospitalization and headache, it said.

At this point, the FDA isn’t talking about taking the devices off the market, but it is reviewing the existing data and beefing up its repeated requests that device makers supply long-term market data about the implants they’ve sold.

Beginning in 1999, the FDA approved four such devices made by three companies. At the time of approval it ordered the firms to collect the market data it now is reordering.
That data was inadequate, the agency said, noting that it did not show why or how soon the devices were being replaced. In addition, the companies had lost contact with many of the patients who had received the devices.
Without knowing that information, the agency cannot determine the true safety and effectiveness of the products or whether any of them should be removed from the market.

Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Research Center for Women & Families, credited Fauber’s reports in the Journal Sentinel and MedPage Today, a medical news website that partners with the newspaper, with prompting the FDA’s action.

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