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.


Daisy said...

I wasn't all that surprised to learn that orthopedic implants aren't covered by any type of warranty. It's up to the patient to sue the manufacturer every time there is a failure. Eventually, the cost of litigation may become more costly than just doing the right thing and backing up their product with some form of guarantee that the product will be free of defects. Obviously, it wouldn't cover errors made in installation (kind of like window manufacturers offer a warranty for your windows but the installer offers a separate warranty for the installation). Sorting out the cause of failure will be tricky, but at least there would be a chance that the patient would have replacement costs covered.

It's good to see that breast implant patients at least get a fair shake. Of course, since breast augmentation is elective, there is more pressure on the manufacturers to actually provide some better lifetime support to their customers.

D. McCarty
San Diego Plastic Surgery

cosmetic surgery said...

What type of warranty you are asking here.warranty of silicon or something else.....

Anonymous said...

You Failed to mention that if your Surgeon re-uses the breast implant in a revision, then your warranty is void. THere should be a informed consent on this and the dangers of re-using a breast implant.