Injuries: If you suffered one of the following complications after receiving an IVC Filter, you may have a claim for compensation:
In thousands of lawsuits, patients say IVC filters can break apart or migrate, threatening internal organs. More troubling, plaintiffs claim device manufacturers knew full-well the dangers of their products – but failed to warn the public.
The IVC filter litigation has grown at an extraordinary pace and time may be limited for those patients who have yet to file suit. Our experienced product liability attorneys can help.
In less than 30 years, the medical community’s reliance on IVC filters, small cage-like devices intended to capture travelling blood clots, has increased to an unprecedented degree. In 1979, only 2,000 patients had the medical devices implanted to reduce the risk of pulmonary embolism. By 2007, nearly 167,000 IVC filters were being used to trap clots before they reached the lungs. But a series of Safety Communications released by the US Food & Drug Administration, along with the results of medical research, have pointed to a number of life-threatening risks presented by retrievable IVC filters.
Thousands of patients who suffered severe injuries injured have already joined this growing litigation, accusing device manufacturers of failing to warn the public about IVC filter risks. Many plaintiffs, who have taken on major companies including Cook Medical and C.R. Bard, go further, calling the medical devices inherently defective. As researchers have learned, IVC filters can fail, fracturing inside the body, at alarming rates. Some studies have discovered severe complications in nearly 50% of patients.
In their IVC filter lawsuits, injured patients and families take these research results as substantial evidence that IVC filters were never safe to begin with. Alongside allegations of wrongdoing and concealed safety data, plaintiffs describe horrific injuries. Many say that an IVC filter literally broke apart inside their body, “migrating” toward internal organs, puncturing vital tissues and causing irreparable damage. Others blame the filter for causing life-threatening blood clots, including pulmonary embolism, the very medical condition these devices were designed to treat.
Even more troubling, patients say manufacturers were fully aware of their products’ dangers – but failed to warn the health community or public. There is significant evidence to substantiate this allegation.
In the condition known as Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot, or “thrombus,” forms in veins that lie far from the skin’s surface, usually vessels in a patient’s leg.
In some cases, these clots can “embolize,” breaking away from the vein in which they formed and following blood flow into other vessels throughout the body. Traveling in this way, some clots reach the pulmonary artery, a vessel that transports blood from the heart’s right ventricle to the lungs.
Larger clots can block the artery entirely, cutting off blood flow and impairing the body’s ability to remain oxygenated. The result is known as “pulmonary embolism,” a condition marked by:
Pulmonary embolism is a potentially fatal medical emergency. According to the Mayo Clinic, one-third of patients suffering from undiagnosed or improperly treated pulmonary embolism “don’t survive.” In the absence of properly oxygenated blood, the body can experience a host of adverse complications, many of which are life-threatening:
Recent concerns have been raised by the FDA, among others, that many physicians do not even attempt to remove the devices after a patient’s risks have subsided. In the JGIM study, authors noted that 21.6% of the patients with no set retrieval date “had no clear contraindications to filter removal.” In other words, surgeons left a filter inside over 1 in 5 patients, even though there was no reason to leave the device implanted.
According to Medscape, “in general the longer [an IVC filter] is left in place, the more difficult it is to retrieve.” IVC filter lawsuits are currently being filed in relation to retrievable devices, although several of the filters named in complaints were first approved as permanent options and later approved for temporary use.
IVC filters were designed to “catch” blood clots before they reach the pulmonary artery. Implanted directly beneath the kidneys in the inferior vena cava (IVC), a large vein that carries deoxygenated blood from the body’s lower half to the heart, these small conical nets capture passing blood clots and stop them from reaching the vessels they could block.
In a class action filed in the Court of Common Pleas for Philadelphia County, plaintiffs use the image of an “upside down umbrella with the fabric removed” as a “rough” analogy for the IVC filter’s appearance.
Because IVC filters are permeable, rather than solid, they allow blood flow to continue around the captured thrombus. Over time, anticoagulants found naturally in blood can break the clot down.
Recent research has found that, for many patients, IVC filters may not present any increased benefits over traditional methods of blood clot treatment.
In fact, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published an editorial entitled “The Inferior Vena Cava Filter: How Could A Medical Device Be So Well Accepted Without Any Evidence Of Efficacy?” as early as 2013. In JAMA’s damning critique, the journal noted that IVC filters should work in theory, but that the device’s true benefits have “never been validated by empirical studies.” Disturbingly, the article’s authors could point to only one randomized controlled trial investigating the potential benefits of retrievable IVC filters in relation to traditional anticoagulant treatments like warfarin.
This French study, called PREPIC, followed 400 patients at high risk for pulmonary embolism over the course of 8 years. Around half of these patients were treated using blood thinners alone, while the other half received both anticoagulants and an IVC filter. After only two years, the study “found no difference in mortality between the 2 groups but a 10% […] higher rate of DVT among those who received the filter.” In other words, IVC filters actually increased the risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis, one of the very conditions they were intended to treat.
After 8 years, 35.7% of patients with IVC filters had suffered DVT, while only 27.5% of the patients using anticoagulants alone had. And again, the difference between mortality rates in the two groups was “indistinguishable.” In the researchers’ own words, their “findings do not support the use of this type of filter in patients who can be treated with anticoagulation.”
That should shock and outrage any patient who has received an IVC filter.
On August 9, 2010, the FDA released an “Initial Communication” titled “Removing Retrievable Inferior Vena Cava Filters,” warning surgeons that if an IVC filter can be removed, it should be as soon as medically appropriate. Among other concerns, the FDA raised alarms that many retrievable IVC filters were not being removed after the risks of pulmonary embolism had passed.
The agency reported that between 2005 and August of 2010, 921 adverse event reports involving severe IVC filter complications had been submitted through the FDA’s Adverse Event Reporting System:
The FDA noted that many of these complications may be related to the amount of time an IVC filter is allowed to remain in place. In response to the extraordinarily high number of adverse events, the agency announced it would complete a review of the existing medical literature on IVC filters and conduct a statistical analysis to determine the device’s true risk-benefit profile.
It would take the agency nearly four years to complete its review.
An updated FDA Safety Communication was released on May 6, 2014. From the results of its analysis, the agency suggested IVC filters be removed between 29 and 54 days after implantation, unless a patient is still at risk of developing pulmonary embolism. FDA also announced that current filter manufacturers would be required to participate in two ongoing studies investigating the device’s putative benefits and the extent of its risks.
While the results of those studies have yet to be published, independent researchers have conducted their own examination of the IVC filter’s risk-benefit profile. As we’ve mentioned, several studies have found that the device may present no benefit to patients at all. In fact, IVC filters may even increase the risk of conditions they supposedly treat.
In light of this discovery, any risks presented by the device could be considered too high. Studies on the rate of IVC filter failure and perforation have presented equally troubling results. In some patient populations, filters were found to have punctured the inferior vena cava’s wall in 100% of patients.
Nearly 3,000 product liability lawsuits have been filed against the manufacturer C.R. Bard. Over its history, the company has made 5 distinct IVC filters:
Reviewing CT scans of patients implanted with Bard’s early filter, a study published in the Journal of Vascular and Interventional Radiology estimated that after 5.5 years, 40% of Recovery IVC Filters would fracture.
In many complaints, patients say that the G2 Filter System’s material, an alloy developed by the US Navy called “Nitinol,” predisposes the device to failure. Nitinol was designed for mounted artillery, an alloy of nickel and titanium that possesses “shape memory.” Objects manufactured in Nitinol can change shape in response to heat, and then snap back to their original form after returning to a lower temperature.
While Nitinol was used to make IVC filters resilient to dilations of the inverior vena cava, plaintiffs say the material actually develops “stress fractures” under the dual pressures of the cardiovascular and respiratory cycles, leading to device failure. In their lawsuits, plaintiffs have argued that Bard’s G2 Filter System should have been electro-polished (as the company did in subsequent models, the Eclipse and Meridian), since the process is known to improve Nitinol’s structural integrity.
An equal number of IVC filter lawsuits have been filed against Cook Medical Inc., a manufacturer of minimally-invasive devices based in Indiana. Cook produces 2 major retrievable filters:
Reaching US markets in 2000, the device was found to quickly perforate the vena cava in 86% of patients by this 2012 University of California San Francisco study.
Several other manufacturers also produce IVC filters:
The device, which featured a novel design, was recalled over fears that it would be implanted backwards due to insufficient labeling instructions. In its press release, the FDA classified the withdrawal as a “Class 1 Recall[,] the most serious type of recall […] in which there is a reasonable probability that use of these products will cause serious adverse health consequences or death.”
With no medically-demonstrated benefits and a host of serious risks, IVC filters stand at the center of a growing litigation. In nearly 5,000 lawsuits, plaintiffs accuse medical device manufacturers of concealing vital safety information and marketing an intrinsically dangerous product to physicians and patients nationwide.
Recent investigations have uncovered troubling evidence that seems to support these allegations. In December 2015, NBC News acquired a trove of damning internal documents from New Jersey medical device giant C.R. Bard, memos indicating that:
“[the] company that made a blood clot filter associated with 27 deaths and hundreds of problems replaced the device with a modified version that it knew had similar and potentially fatal flaws soon after it was put on the market.”
Rather than recalling its “second generation” G2 filter, a device over which company representatives expressed serious safety concerns, C.R. Bard “decided to keep them on the market for five years, until 2010, selling more than 160,000 of them,” according to NBC. Much like the earlier Recovery filters, the company’s G2 models have been linked to multiple deaths and “hundreds of problems.”
In a subsequent interview, IVC filter removal expert Dr. William Kuo told reporters:
“All of the data that we’ve seen in our studies, as well as other clinician researchers’, is that this device consistently fractures, consistently causes major complications. The number of complications, the frequency of severe failures make it obvious that it was never safe to be implanted.”
Kuo runs the IVC Filter Clinic at Stanford University.
C.R. Bard hired Kay Fuller, a consultant on FDA regulation, in 2002, hoping that her expertise would help the company gain federal approval for its Recovery IVC filter. The FDA had already denied Bard’s application once and, soon after joining the team, Fuller found out why: the device had performed poorly in clinical trials. But after voicing her concerns, Fuller says Bard refused to show her “important safety performance test results.”
To her mind, the suggestion was clear: “continue to pursue these questions” and you’ll be fired. Fuller, though, wouldn’t compromise her ethics. She refused to sign the FDA application, according to an interview with NBC News, and then reported her worries to the FDA. Soon after, Bard submitted its second application for the Recovery filter – complete with what seemed to be Kay Fuller’s signature.
“That’s not my signature,” she told NBC, “I did not sign it.”
More individuals may be eligible to file claims against the companies behind IVC filters.
The lawsuits currently filed against C.R. Bard have been “consolidated” in the US District Court of Arizona. Today, the litigation now known as In re: Bard IVC Filters Product Liability Litigation includes over 2,600 lawsuits, which will move through pre-trial proceedings as a group.
A similar process is taking place in the US District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, where nearly 2,700 filter lawsuits against Cook Medical have been consolidated.
These two litigations are moving quickly. A number of IVC filter lawsuits appear to have reached settlement already, and attorneys believe that the case against C.R. Bard and Cook Medical is very strong. In Indiana, the first Cook Medical trials have already been scheduled. While the C.R. Bard litigation has not yet reached that point, the federal judge presiding over the case, the Honorable David G. Campbell, has set a number of deadlines with which some plaintiffs will be forced to comply.
Time may be limited. If you received an IVC filter and suffered serious complications as a result, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Banville Law immediately. Our IVC filter lawyers offer a free consultation at no obligation. To learn more about your legal options and discuss case eligibility, call or fill out our contact form now.
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