HipSaver Inc. claims its sales growth has slowed because of a report that did not involve its product.
A Canton manufacturer has sued a medical researcher, claiming his report in a prestigious medical journal last year is causing clients to question the effectiveness of the company’s primary product.
HipSaver Inc. filed the lawsuit in Norfolk Superior Court on Feb. 15 against Dr. Douglas Kiel, a medical researcher who works at Hebrew SeniorLife’s Institute for Aging Research in Boston.
At issue is an article published in July in the Journal of the American Medical Association that asserts hip protectors are not effective in preventing hip fractures among seniors.
The company’s main product, called HipSaver, is a hip protector that seniors wear to prevent fractures; the company makes it in a Norwood plant. HipSaver president Edward Goodwin said the product used in the JAMA study has several key differences from the one he sells. For example, the hip saver that was studied has a hard-shell component, while Goodwin’s is totally soft.
The lawsuit also notes that the JAMA study involved pads on one side of the hip, while the HipSaver provides padding to both sides.
“Dr. Kiel and the other researchers are mystified as to why their hip protector didn’t work,” Goodwin said. “Yet they’re willing to draw conclusions that the current hip protectors are not effective.”
Goodwin said he has had to defend his product’s reputation to representatives for nursing homes ever since the JAMA article received widespread publicity.
“The bottom line is, I have to overcome this obstacle constantly from this prestigious publication, JAMA, and this prestigious professor,” Goodwin said. “Sales are still growing, but at a dramatically lower rate. I’m under the gun because my sales growth is going down.”
Goodwin said some nursing homes have been buying HipSavers for more than 10 years.
“The nursing home environment is a very budget-conscious environment,” Goodwin said. “They wouldn’t continue to purchase something if they didn’t think it was producing a benefit for them.”
Kiel, the lead author of the article, is the only defendant named in the complaint. HipSaver, in the lawsuit, describes Kiel’s conduct as “tortuous disparagement.”
Goodwin said he decided not to sue JAMA because the Chicago-based publication wasn’t aware of the full details of the experiment.
Representatives at Hebrew SeniorLife said Kiel was out of the office last week on vacation and likely wouldn’t be available to comment.
Jann Ingmire, director of media relations for JAMA, declined to comment about the lawsuit other than to say that the publication’s editors stand by the study as it was published.
The JAMA report received some publicity for an unexpected reason last summer when The Associated Press reported that three of the authors of the study either consulted for or received money from makers of bone-strengthening drugs and failed to disclose that potential conflict to JAMA.
The researchers and the medical journal’s editor responded at the time by saying that they didn’t believe the industry connections were relevant because the hip-protector study didn’t involve bone drugs.
HipSaver employs a dozen people at its Canton and Norwood locations, Goodwin said. He declined to provide the privately held company’s annual revenue figures.
Jon Chesto may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.