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Medica granted extension on US settlement

Thousands of artificial hip and knee joints needed to be replaced

(Keystone)

Sulzer Medica has been given permission by a US district judge to extend the deadline for its class-action case over faulty implants until May 31.

The medical devices group said the postponement of Wednesday's deadline would give it more time to negotiate with 115 opt-out patients, who have refused to accept its settlement offer of SFr1.6 billion ($1billion) for faulty knee and hip implants.

The company is now under pressure to get the patients to agree to the settlement or else face a string of multi-dollar lawsuits, including 12 from patients who have not been re-operated to replace the faulty implants.

Medica, which changes its name to Centerpulse on June 1, has already said it may be forced to file for Chapter 11 (protection from creditors) in the US if the number of opt-out patients is too high.

"We want to be able to make our decision on as sound a basis as possible," said Medica CEO Stephan Rietiker.

"This requires that we must further reduce the opt-out rate, as this will allow us to avoid the scenario of filing for Chapter 11."

Sulzer Medica recalled thousands of implants in December 2000 after a manufacturing problem contaminated them with an oily residue, preventing them from bonding with patient's bones.

Earlier this month, the group was also forced to replace faulty heart valve testers in 50 countries after a patient died in Britain.

swissinfo with agencies

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