With a metallic clatter, evidence of an elaborate scheme to enrich a few landed in the receiving room of Richard Walker’s surgical supply firm in South Africa.
Although the true extent of the caper remains buried in the necks and backs of people scattered around the U.S., it began to unravel that day in 2009.
Ortho Sol makes precision screws for the most delicate of construction projects: spinal fusion. Doctors around the world drive them into the vertebrae of patients with devastating back injuries.
The company had repossessed some of its screws after one U.S. distributor – Spinal Solutions LLC – stopped paying its bills. But now, nestled with the returns, the brighter yellow luster of a few screws caught Walker’s eye.
Testing confirmed his fears. Some were not made of his firm’s medical-grade titanium. Their uneven threads showed potential for backing out or breaking, he said. He feared the laser-etched markings intended to make them look authentic could be toxic to patients.
Walker’s conclusion: The Southern California firm was knocking off his products.