DePuy Hip Recall Issued Three Years After Problems Emerged: Testimony

It took three years after signs of problems with the DePuy ASR hip first surfaced for the metal-on-metal hip replacement system to be removed from the market, according to testimony presented this week to the Australian senate. 

According to orthopedic expert Stephen Graves, evidence of high failure rates with the DePuy ASR hip implant were first noticed by that country’s Therapeutic Goods Administration in 2006, but the implant was not removed from the market in Australia until late 2009 and a DePuy hip recall was not issued in the United States and rest of the world until August 2010.

By the time DePuy Orthopaedics, a division of Johnson & Johnson, finally recalled the DePuy ASR implant, tens of thousands of people worldwide had already received the hip implant, which has been associated with a high rate of failure and early revision surgery.

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Experts suggest that at least one out of every eight people who received a DePuy ASR XL Acetabular System or DePuy ASR Hip Resurfacing System will have their hip fail within five years, with some estimates suggesting that 29% of the DePuy metal-on-metal hip replacements will fail within six years.

In the United States, hundreds of DePuy ASR hip lawsuits have been filed against Johnson & Johnson and their subsidiary, alleging that the companies designed and sold a defective product without adequately warning consumers about the risk of catastrophic failure and metal poisoning caused by cobalt and chromium shavings that can be released as the metal parts of the hip implant rub against each other.

The head of Johnson & Johnson’s Australia branch, Anthony Bishop, told the Australian senate that the company regrets what happened and indicated that the company has disbursed more than $21 million in DePuy hip compensation in Australia alone. However, the three-year gap between detection of the problem and an official recall remains unexplained on Johnson & Johnson’s end.

Australian officials went through a series of reviews and expert advisory groups that delayed that country taking action once they suspected a problem, officials said.

Britain and Australia were the first two countries to recognize the high failure rates due to their use of artificial joint implant registries. A similar registry has only been recently established in the U.S.

Many have criticized how the company has handled the payment of compensation for individuals injured by their defective hip implants, which some DePuy ASR hip implant attorneys say looks more like an effort to avoid litigation or get a leg up on potential plaintiffs than actually make amends.

Following the recall, DePuy called for patients to return defective hip implants that were removed back to the company and to allow DePuy to access their medical records with no guarantee that they would be approved for reimbursement, and those reimbursements only taking into account direct medical expenses, if they were approved. More recently, the company has hired Broadspire Services, a third-party, to determine whether plaintiffs were injured by their implants, as opposed to allowing the plaintiffs’ doctors, who are more familiar with the cases, make the decision.

During testimony, Australian officials also mentioned that DePuy faces problems with another hip implant, the DePuy Pinnacle hip, which features a similar design to the ASR.

In the United States, a growing number of DePuy Pinnacle hip lawsuits have already been filed in courts throughout the country, although the artificial metal-on-metal hip remains on the market. Most of the complaints allege that a DePuy Pinnacle hip recall should have been issued since the older system has been plagued by similar problems that increase the risk of early loosening or failure.

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