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Shoulder Pain Pump Anesthetic Manufacturers–Viable Defendants?

With well over 100 cases filed in at least 21 states, the shoulder pain pump litigation is gaining steam. Pain pumps are small devices used to control post-operative pain. However, pump catheters placed near cartilage (usually the shoulder, but sometimes the knee or even toe) can cause the progressive deterioration of those cartilage cells, leading to painful and permanent bone-on-bone contact.

Defendants typically include the manufacturers and distributors of the pain pumps. However, some lawyers are adding anesthetic drug manufacturers. These are companies like AstraZeneca, Hospira, APP Pharmaceuticals Abbott Labs, who all supply local anesthetic (bupivacaine, marcaine, lidocaine, sensorcaine, ropivacaine, etc…) often selected for use in the pumps by doctors.

The case against the anesthetic manufacturers is indeed harder to prove than the case against the device manufacturers. However, inclusion may be important for a couple of reasons. First (though not a good reason to bring in a defendant by itself), the majority of the pain pump market share is owned by I-Flow. Discovery conducted to date indicates that I-Flow may have limited insurance to cover the flood of verdicts that may be coming.

Additionally, the drug manufacturers may be liable because they knew their drugs were being used in pain pumps. Depositions of the various pump manufacturers have revealed that most of the anesthetic manufacturers were contacted at some point in an effort to co-market the pumps and drugs. It appears the drug manufacturers turned these offers down; however, they were on notice that their products were used in the pumps, and they should have examined whether it was safe. Had they conducted such an examination, they would have easily found medical articles indicating that local anesthetics are toxic to cartilage. But, as corporations often do, they were content to do nothing, and let the cash roll in. This information was easy to find. The really good stuff usually comes after fighting for it. So, stay tuned…