A Johnson & Johnson helpline that really doesn’t help people seeking compensation

MUMBAI | NEW DELHI: R Swaminathan, a 52-year-old resident of Chennai, has a bone to pick with Johnson & Johnson. All this week he has tried to reach a helpline advertised on the company website to register his case and seek compensation for a faulty hip implant from the US pharma giant. The call centre has been unresponsive even though the specially created website specifies a 9.30 am to 6.30 pm timing. Requesting reimbursement is supposed to be straightforward, J&J said on its website. Patients must register with Puri Crawford, the company designated to receive, process and pay claims on J&J’s behalf, and provide their consent. Once the applicant’s implant has been confirmed, recall-related expenses can be submitted directly to Puri Crawford for review.

ET’s calls to the helpline during the stipulated time remained unanswered. However, a J&J spokesperson told ET in an email response: “Our helpline team… is working diligently to assist ASR patients. The helpline is currently experiencing high call volumes so patients may experience temporary delays in response time. Additional call center representatives are being added to better serve patients.”

Indrajit Banerjee, a 50-year-old resident of Kolkata, has a similar grievance, with calls unanswered. Banerjee received the implant in 2007 and suffered from psoriasis in the hip area. He did not think it could possibly be because of the faulty hip implant.

“Now, I suspect that my blood is infected with the metal of the implant, which has worsened my skin condition,” Banerjee told ET from Kolkata. It was only earlier this year, after reading an article in the Times of India, did Banerjee realise the company had recalled the faulty implants in 2010. Swaminathan got his implant in 2007 after an accident and within a year he started experiencing extreme pain. When he sought a second opinion, he realised that one of the parts of the implant was slipping from its position. This is when doctors recommended he go for a revision surgery.

In 2016, when Swaminathan read about global lawsuits against DePuy, a J&J company, over this issue, he tried to reach out to the company through an email, which he said remained unanswered. Swaminathan spent almost Rs 5 lakh on his complete surgery, which was covered by insurance. Earlier this month, the health ministry said it has asked for the constitution of committees in the states and the Centre to identify patients who underwent the hip implants and look into their compensation. J&J has said it will cooperate with the government and help patients in revision surgeries. The company has asked patients to get in touch through its call centre and helpline, which is managed by Puri Crawford. Yet, for several patients affected by the faulty product, reaching out to this third-party entity has been a harrowing experience.

Visakhapatnam-based Jyoti Rani, 44, who underwent revision surgery in February 2017, told ET she felt “harassed” while trying to recover her expenditure through the helpline operated by Puri Crawford. The experience with her doctor worsened her situation.

“I would experience immense pain after I first got the implant, but my doctor kept telling me that there was no problem and that it was all in my head. If the pain persisted, he would prescribe some painkillers,” she told ET.

Throughout the reimbursement process, Rani said she had to fight with the helpline personnel over almost every component claimed, which she found emotionally draining and frustrating. This was also because the company had never clearly explained its reimbursement process, she said.

“They also told me that they would not be reimbursing me for loss of wages because I am not a salaried employee working at ‘limited’ corporation,” added Rani, who designs jewellery for a small shop and doesn’t receive salary slips because she mostly works freelance due to her condition.

Subodh Jain, a 49-year-old New Delhi resident, has been waiting for a response from the DePuy office to an email his family sent 11days ago. Jain’s family reached out to the helpline advertised by J&J. After noting the details of his case, there has been no response.


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