New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer sued Guidant Corp., Indianapolis, for fraud for concealing information about a design flaw in a heart defibrillator. The lawsuit alleged that Guidant failed to disclose to doctors information about a potential malfunction in its implantable cardio defibrillator, the Ventak Prizm 2 DR Model 1861. The device is designed to deliver, when necessary, a controlled electric shock to restore normal heart rhythms to patients at high risk of sudden cardiac death. In February 2002 Guidant learned about a design flaw that caused some of the models to short out and subsequently made changes to correct the flaw, but the company continued to sell the old defibrillators and did not notify doctors of the problem for three more years, Spitzer charged.
The suit adds to Guidant's woes. Earlier this week, Johnson & Johnson called into question its proposed $25.4 billion acquisition of Guidant due to the recent recalls. Guidant notified J&J that it was legally obligated to complete the deal in accordance with their original agreement. At deadline, Guidant had not responded to a request for comment. -- by Cinda Becker