Cardiac stents have always been thought of as life-saving implants, but recently it has come to light that many doctors are massively overusing the technology, turning it into one of the most overly performed and unnecessary procedures.
Stents are implants that are used to prop open arteries. They are used in two situations: the first of which is to restore blood flow in heart attack patients. These emergency procedures are life-saving for many and are done in about 350,000 patients a year. It is the second use of stents that have become highly controversial. This is when doctors place cardiac stents in elective patients that are in stable condition. Such procedures are performed just as many times a year as emergency stent implants. Unfortunately, elective stent procedures have serious repercussions, including perforated arteries, blood clots, and death.
In 2012, there 773 deaths were reported to the FDA from stents, which is 71% higher than in 2009. There were also over 4000 non-fatal injuries reported, which is a 33% increase from 2008.
In the last 10 years, 7 million Americans have had stents put in, at the cost of $110 billion. The repercussions of stent usage include costs of $2.4 billion a year to the American healthcare system.
In order to address the problem, there have been federal investigations into the allegations of unnecessary stenting, and crackdowns on doctors and hospitals who are profiting from this too-common practice.
The incentive for doctors and hospitals to perform these procedures is purely financial. A doctor makes four times as much money by putting in a stent as he does in recommending alternatives such as diet and lifestyle changes. A hospital is paid about $25,000 by a private insurer for stent placement. There have been many allegations of hospitals paying kickbacks to doctors for referring stent patients to their facilities as well.
Federal crackdowns have led to some doctors even ending up in federal prison. Many families have sadly lost loved ones as a result of unnecessary stenting, especially those who have been inserted with numerous stents, sometimes as many as 10.
If you or a loved one have been the victim of unnecessary stenting, an experienced pharmaceutical attorney can provide you with valuable legal guidance. Contact us to discuss your case today.