Experts now know that metal-on-metal (MOM) hip implants are problematic because the design has unique risks in addition to the risks of plastic or ceramic hip replacements.
Metal components of the “ball-and-socket” grind together as a patient moves. Over time, tiny bits of metal accumulate in the hip joint and get into the bloodstream, resulting in tissue damage and systemic toxicity.
On April 11, the Daily Telegraph released documents proving that Johnson & Johnson’s DePuy Orthopedic unit was aware of these concerns for decades and did not warn surgeons or patients.
Instead, DePuy advertised all-metal hip replacements toward younger and more physically active patients, telling orthopedic surgeons that the implants would last longer and be more durable.
Dr. John F. Irving was one of the first doctors to grow concerned about metal hip implant side effects. In a recently-revealed letter to the DePuy head of U.S. marketing in 1995, Dr. Irving wrote:
I do not feel DePuy is doing enough to understand the extent of Pinnacle MOM hip disease. I believe it borders on unethical to continue to market the product until the issues are elucidated. These products are harming patients. DePuy needs to contact physicians that have used the product and encourage them to contact their patients for an urgent follow-up. Many of our hips have asymptomatic osteolysis!
Minutes from a 1995 meeting show that several of DePuy’s own experts warned about these problems, including Dr. Graham Isaac and Dr. Paul Peters, who wrote: “We need to be cautious of the legal/litigation issues and lawyers etc… perception of metal debris and metal-ion release.”
DePuy was responsible for selling the ASR, an all-metal hip implant that was recalled in 2010 due to a 5-year failure rate of 12%. After lawsuits were filed, evidence from the DePuy’s own test results showed that they knew the 5-year failure-rate was actually 40%.
Nearly 10,000 lawsuits have been filed by people who were injured by the DePuy Pinnacle, an all-metal hip implant that was not recalled. Last year, DePuy was hit with an eye-popping $1 billion jury verdict to six people who were injured. Another jury in awarded $502 million to five people in March 2016.