About two years ago, New Jersey company Johnson & Johnson made the widely-publicized decision to recall the ASR artificial hip manufactured and sold by DePuy Orthopaedics, a unit of J&J. The company set aside $3 billion to compensate people who had filed personal injury lawsuits in connection with the defective products, and seemed to acknowledge the danger of metal-on-metal artificial hips.
However, J&J soon released a new metal-on-metal design in its Pinnacle line of products, and despite similar claims of pain, swelling, dislocation and increased levels of metal in the blood, the company is thus far refusing to acknowledge any issues with its new artificial hip.
Unfortunately, this refusal could have significant impacts. Medical records indicate that about 150,000 Americans have received Pinnacle metal-on-metal hip implants, as compared to the 37,000 that received ASR hips. And because the U.S. currently lacks a system to track medical devices once they are implanted (read more about that issue in our previous product liability blog post) the full impact of the Pinnacle failures may never be known.
Initially, J&J's response to the Pinnacle problems has been inconsistent. Some patients received company-funded revision surgeries, while others have been refused any form of compensation. Now, it seems that J&J will actively fight against any legal claims in connection with Pinnacle failures, a move that could end up costing the company $5 billion in revision surgeries alone should it be found to be at fault for the injuries. There are already 1,600 lawsuits pending against J&J in connection with the Pinnacle metal hip, with more likely to come.
Regardless of the outcome of those lawsuits, it seems that the damage to the reputation of J&J, DePuy and the metal-on-metal artificial hip may already be done. Studies indicate that the less than 10 percent of surgeons currently use metal hip implants, down from 16 percent just two years ago, and with the number expected to continue to fall.
If you or a family member has been suffered an injury caused by a faulty hip replacement or other medical device, please contact Breslin & Breslin for a free consultation.
Source: Fox News, "As lawsuits climb, J&J may have new hip trauma," July 12, 2012