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Monday, April 05, 2010
Are your breast implants under warranty?
The New York Times had a story last week (see here) on how expensive orthopedic implants for knees and hips were to replace when they failed. As the cost of the devices themselves (without hospital or physician charges) can run north of $15,000, it can be more then $50K on the price tag when these patients require re-operation for premature failure. Highlighted in the story was the fact that the manufacturers did not expressly provide a warranty for replacement costs of their implants.
Much like these orthopedic devices, patients with breast implants can expect their devices to have to be replaced at some point in their life, either thru device failure or for aesthetic revision issues as their body changes. In contradistinction to the orthopedic companies, both Allergan and Mentor Corp. (whom combined sell 99% of all breast implants in the United States) have offered lifetime replacements on their failed devices for several years now. Allergan in particular has been admirable, as the parent company that makes the implants has been sold twice from it's roots as McGhan medical (later Inamed Corp.). As both Allergan and Johnson & Johnson (owner of Mentor Corp. since 2009) are huge multinationals, it would seem patients with these implants should have a good deal of security of their devices fail for replacement of their implants.
These implant companies do not however cover all other costs associated with the replacement of the devices, but have come up with a fairly generous standard program matched by both Mentor & Allergan
10 years of guaranteed financial assistance
Up to $1200 in out-of-pocket expenses for surgical fees, operating room and anesthesia expenses not covered by insurance
Silicone filled and saline filled breast implants are both covered
Lifetime product replacement
Automatic enrollment at the time of your original surgery
Now as a breast implant is relative expensive to design and test clinically, but inexpensive to manufacture by the unit, it's easy to see how these companies can absorb the cost. I don't know exactly their margin per device, but I think it's $600-700+ per silicone implant they sell.