A 2011 in-house review at medical device maker Johnson & Johnson (“J&J”) revealed that its all-metal hip implant devices would likely fail within five years in nearly 40% of patients who received the implant. The information was recently disclosed in court documents and comes as a horrifying shock to the thousands of patients across the country who received the potentially dangerous devices.
In another possibly damaging release of information ahead of upcoming trials, it was revealed that an engineer working for J&J’s medical device subsidiary DePuy, stated that company officials were aware as far back as 2008 that a version of the ASR implant was releasing high levels of metallic ions in patients’ bloodstreams.
Hip implants that are made of metal and plastic typically last for 15 years before they wear out and need to be replaced. Such devices can fail prematurely for a variety of reasons but the typical failure rate is only 1% after a year and 5% after five years, a number that pales in comparison to J&J’s shocking estimated 40% failure rate. More shocking is that Johnson & Johnson never revealed their internal projections related to the ASR implant, not to the public or to doctors. Instead, it worked to discredit other studies that indicated an unusually high failure rate for the all-metal devices.
So far, more than 10,000 lawsuits have been filed against J&J by patients who have been injured by the metal hip implants. The recent disclosure only surfaced because the first such cases are now moving towards trial. The hip implant recall and subsequent lawsuits is one of the largest medical device failures in recent decades. The trials are attempting to determine what officials at J&J knew about the safety of the devices they were peddling and when.
The J&J ASR device represented a whole class of hip implants that contained two pieces, both made of metal. While J&J’s device was more failure-prone than others, doctors have all but abandoned such all-metal devices as reports of damage have continued to appear. The problem is that the two metal pieces in the implant slowly grind together and release tiny metallic shavings that can damage a patient’s surrounding tissues and bones.
Thus far, thousands of cases have been consolidated across the country, with a large group at a federal court in Ohio and another batch in California. The first case going to trial involves an elderly man recently diagnosed with cancer who may not live much longer. The judge in charge agreed to move the case along and some believe J&J may end up settling the case rather than allow the whole trial to play out. The number of possible litigants could yet increase further as more than 93,000 people around the world received an ASR hip implant.
About one million of these all-metal devices have been implanted in patients across the world over the past 15 years. This means that far too many patients are at possible risk of the dangerous effects of the implants. If you or someone you know have been injured by a defective product and you would like to discuss your case with an attorney, please contact the Georgia product liability litigation attorneys at Pope McGlamry P.C. today to schedule a free consultation.
Source: “Maker Aware of 40% Failure in Hip Implant,” by Barry Meier, published at NYTimes.com.
See Our Related Blog Posts:
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Studies Offer More Bad News For Those With All-Metal Hip Implants
DePuy forced to recall additional devices