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Centerpulse compensates faulty implant victims

Swiss medical devices firm, Centerpulse, has transferred $725 million (SFr1.1 billion) to a trust representing victims of faulty hip and knee implants in the United States.

The move marks the end of a lengthy litigation battle that cast a shadow over the Zurich-based company.

Centerpulse, formerly known as Sulzer Medica, handed over the sum to the Settlement Trust in Cleveland, Ohio, fulfilling its obligations to class-action plaintiffs.

The trust will pay out compensation over the coming months to patients who were affected by the faulty joints.

Centerpulse recalled thousands of implants in December 2000 after a manufacturing problem contaminated them with oily residue, preventing them from bonding with the patients' bones.

Tens of thousands of mainly elderly people were affected by the faulty implants, denting the company's image in the US and weakening its share value.

The settlement saw Centerpulse register a SFr29 billion loss in 2001. However, the company's fortunes have rebounded since then, with a SFr94.8 million net profit recorded for the first half of 2002.

Back to business

Centerpulse said the closure of the litigation procedure would allow the firm to concentrate its full attention on its ongoing business.

"We can now focus our collective strength on our current business affairs and on the further development of our company," said chairman and CEO, Dr Max Link.

He added that he was pleased that the affected patients would be receiving compensation.

In September the company announced that it was issuing SFr225 million in new stock to help fund the settlement.

It said that its biggest shareholder, InCentive Capital, would underwrite the capital increase by taking up to 78 per cent of the shares. The remaining 22 per cent is being underwritten by Switzerland's largest bank, UBS.

swissinfo with agencies

Centerpulse facts

The money will compensate patients who were affected by the faulty implants.
Centerpulse recalled thousands of implants in December 2000.
The resulting litigation severely damaged the company's image in the US.
The company issued new stock in September to help fund the settlement.

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