Patients are shocked, burned with a device protected for pain relief


COLUMBIA, South Carolina – Jim Taft was listening hard after years of fatigue, when his pain-relief doctor described a medical device that could change his life.

Taft and his wife did not remember his damaged right hand for nervous wounds, but he recalled the doctor's message, but the spinal stimulator burst into pain and made him "good new."

But Taft's surgically implanted stimulator failed when the wire of his spine broke. After correcting the operation, he said that the device shocked him so many times that he could not sleep and even descended through the stairs. Today, 45-year-old Taft is in prison on his own bed, which hardly gets into the bathroom.

"I thought I would have a wonderful life," he said. "But look at me."

For many years, medical equipment companies and doctors have culminated spinal stimulators as a panacea for millions of patients suffering from many pain disorders and made them $ 400 billion of fastest growing medical devices. Businesses and physicians have aggressively pushed them into a safe opioid killing in the United States and in the treatment of aging populations who need chronic pain relief.

But stimulants – devices that use electrical currents to prevent pain signals before reaching the brain – are more dangerous than many patients know, the Associated Press survey was found. They represent the third largest number of medical devices reported to the US Food and Drug Administration and since 2008 more than 80,000 events have been reported.

Patients report that they are shocked or burned or have had spinal cord injury that varies from the weakness of the muscles to the paraplegia, the FDA data shows. Among the 4,000 different devices behind the FDA, only the metal hocks and insulin pumps have written more damage reports.

The FDA contains more than 500 reports of people with spinal dermatitis who have died, but the details are small, making it difficult to determine whether the Deaths are related to a stimulator or an implant surgery.

Manufacturers of medical devices claim that spinal cord stimuli are safe – about 60,000 implants annually – and doctors specializing in these surgery say they have helped reduce pain for several patients.

Most of these devices, however, have only FDA approved little clinical tests, and the agency's data show that spinal cord drives have too much injuries than much more than hip implants.

As part of the spinal stimulators, the AP announced nearly a year of joint research in the field of global medical devices, including NBC, an international consortium of researchers and more than 50 other media partners around the world. Reporters collected and analyzed millions of medical information, reminders and other product safety warnings by interviewing doctors, patients, researchers, and business reporters.

Media's partners said that over all types of medical devices, FDA reported more than 1.7 million injuries and nearly 83 000 deaths over the past decade.

The study also found that the FDA, which other countries consider to be a gold meddler under the supervision of medical devices, puts people in jeopardy by putting devices into a shortened approval process and responding slowly when companies force them to repair sometimes life-threatening products.

Equipment is seldom withdrawn from the market, although significant problems arise.

The FDA acknowledges that its data contains limitations such as errors, omissions, and subprojects that may make it difficult to determine if the device is causing direct injury or death. But it rejects the proposal for failed control.

"There are more than 190,000 devices in the United States, and we have dozens of new or modified devices available every few days," said Dr. Jeffrey Shure, head of the FDA Medical Device at the May Industrial Conference. "A few devices that pay attention to at any time in the press are less than the devices we can launch on the weekday."

Over the last 50 years, the medical industry has revolutionized medicines for some of the deaths of modern medicine that provide equipment for the treatment or diagnosis of heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

Pete Corby, who was injured as a film scientist, said the spinal cord stimulator helped her deal with her constant pain and end the opioid use she was dependent on.

Medical equipment companies have "invested countless resources – both capital and people – to develop front line compliance programs," says Janet Trunzo, Senior Vice President, Technology and Regulatory Affairs at AdvaMed, the leading retail trade association.

At the same time, medical device manufacturers have also spent billions trying to influence regulators, hospitals and doctors.

Taft neurosurgeon Charleston Jason Highsmith of South Carolina planted the device in April 2014. But Taft and his wife said that the device never worked.

Highsmith said that the electrode in Taft's stimulator broke away from "intense activity," even though Taft said it would not have been possible because of his condition.

In October 2014, Highsmith said he worked with Taft to install a new lead, to test and reset the battery. Taft's medical data, however, shows that he continued stuttering, tingling and pain.

The stimulator was surgically removed in August 2015.

Highsmith said that most of his spinal cord stimulator patients get significant pain relief.

There is little comfort for Taft.

"This is a death sentence," Taft said, pushed into the wooden headboard of his bed to which he took the words "death row."

"I die here," he said.


Washington D.C .: Associated Press's editors Meghan Hoyer and Matthew Perrone participated in this report, as did Denver-based video editor P. Solomon Banda.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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