The latter is a specialized alloy used in various products, including orthopedic implants used during surgery. As reported by the GMP Letter September 3, a device maker was unsuccessful in processing titanium through a machine used to manufacture a device (the specific device was not identified). The manufacturer approached its supplier, G&S Titanium, an importer-distributer.
According to Roger Geiser, G&S CEO, the defect was identified as alloy segregation, an indication that the metals were not melded homogenously. If the alloy is not melded properly, the metals remain unmixed.
G&S said the raw material was imported from Dalian Sunny Titanium Industry, an enterprise based in China. Geiser added that his company is no longer purchasing titanium from there.
While the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) visited the G&S facility about two months ago, no details about the inspection were released. In the interim, the Orthopedic Surgical Manufacture's Association (OSMA) is working with affected device makers to address the problem. "It's not an easy issue," OSMA's Tom Craig told GMP.
Not easy because the defective titanium from China actually met international standards set out for titanium by ASTM, a standards organization. Second, nothing short of a destructive test could possibly identify the defect—although such a test would serve to weaken the titanium. Destructive tests are not required by the ASTM under current regulations.
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What does that mean for a patient concerned over a defective product and personal injury? Hard to say. OSMA indicated it did not know of any defective products migrating out to patients as a result of the problem. Craig also said that a few companies have initiated pre-emptive recalls, although he did not identify the manufacturers or what those products were.
G&S tested the titanium in question, which demonstrated adequate strength and chemistry specifications. "The certification we got from the supplier said this should never happen," G&S' Geiser said. But it did—and the defect occurred further down the supply chain than what the FDA generally inspects, said Craig. "This caught everybody off-guard."