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Synthes Sued Over Death Linked to Bone-Cement Trials

Johnson & Johnson’s Synthes unit, a maker of tools and implants to treat damaged bones, along with its former Norian Corp. subsidiary, was sued by the family of a woman who died during an unapproved trial of a bone cement.

Lois L. Eskind lost her life on Jan. 13, 2003, after a surgeon injected Synthes’s Norian SRS drug into her spine mixed with barium sulfate. Moments after the mixture leaked into her venous system she suffered cardiac arrest, according to the complaint filed July 27 in federal court in Philadelphia by her daughter, Eva Sloan.

Synthes, its Norian unit and the operating surgeon “concealed the illegality, experimental nature and substantial risks of the surgery,” Sloan claimed in the complaint.

Four Synthes executives were sentenced last year to prison terms ranging from five months to eight months for their roles in the unapproved trials. The cement, approved for use elsewhere in the body, was employed in the spines of 200 patients with fractured vertebrae. Three patients, including Eskind, died during spinal surgeries.

Synthes, based in West Chester, Pennsylvania, agreed in October 2010 to sell the Norian unit, which pleaded guilty to felony and misdemeanor criminal charges, and pay a $23.5 million fine to settle the case. Johnson & Johnson’s acquisition of Synthes won regulatory approval in June.

Sloan’s lawsuit makes claims of wrongful death, negligence and fraud stemming from her mother’s death.

The case is Sloan v. Synthes Inc., 12-cv-04286, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia).

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