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Meet Vijay Vojhala, the lone fighter who took on Johnson & Johnson for faulty hip implants

Six months after the hip replacement surgery, Vijay Vojhala -- a medical representative -- said his pain increased and his limp became more pronounced, with the new joints squeaking when he walked.

Updated: Aug 25, 2018 07:16:57

By Anonna Dutt

Vojhala was diagnosed with avascular necrosis, a condition where the bone tissue dies because of the loss of blood supply. (HT Photo)

It took medical representative Vijay Vojhala, 45, two years to discover his artificial hip implant was faulty.

“As a medical representative, I met at least 15 orthopaedic doctors each week but no one, including my surgeon, mentioned the implant had been recalled. I lived with the faulty implant for two years. If it took me so long to find out, how would a layperson know?,” said Vojhala.

“Most people with the implant don’t know they can avail of the compensatory revision surgery and live in pain or worse,” said the Mumbai resident.

Vojhala was diagnosed with avascular necrosis, a condition where the bone tissue dies because of the loss of blood supply. A surgery to decompress the core to restore the blood flow didn’t work, so he was advised total hip replacement surgery.



His luck ran out in 2008 when he chose a Johnson & Johnson articular surface replacement implants. “At the time of the surgery, the surgeon said it was the best available as a metal on metal implant is likely to last longer. Since I was young, I did not want revision surgery,” said Vojhala.

What he did not know that concerns were being raised about the safety of the implant internationally.

Six months after the surgery, his pain increased and his limp became more pronounced, with the new joints squeaking when he walked.

“I was at a medical conference when my orthopaedic doctor friends asked me what was wrong and I mentioned the implant that I had used. They advised me to get the cobalt and chromium levels tested,” said Vojhala.

The metal levels were through the roof, which led to Vojhala losing some teeth, his hearing in the right ear, his job, and his ability to play volleyball or to swim.

“I was an active person, now I just sit around putting on weight. All the muscles in my body start aching if I walk for long. My job too requires a lot of travel but by 2013, I had lost confidence that I would ever be able to do it, so I quit,” said Vojhala, who now runs a small path lab.

After he learned the implant was faulty, he reached out to Johnson and Johnson for the revision surgery in 2010. It took a lot of haggling with the company before he could get a compensatory revision surgery in 2012.

“Before turning 40, I had undergone three major surgeries and life has not been same since,” he said.

Vojhala also reached out to the government authorities. “The first registered an FIR, after that I wrote to the local members of Parliament and legislative assembly. I reached out to the state health minister and chief minister, the central drug controller, the prime minister’s office, National Human Rights Commission --- anybody I could approach with a grievance as a common man,” he said.

“It was because of my persistence that a committee was finally set up, but it seems like an eyewash because no action has been taken against Johnson&Johnson.Why should Indians be paid just Rs 20 lakh as compensation anyway?? It should be the same as international payouts as the suffering is the same. They must pay for taking away the most productive years of our lives,” said Vojhala .

First Published: Aug 25, 2018 07:14:41

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