The DePuy hip replacement recall litigation involving the recalled DePuy ASR hip implant is focusing on the handling of devices removed during hip revision surgery. The removed hip replacements will be vital evidence in the many DePuy lawsuits that have already been filed, as well as the many others that will be filed in the future.
Johnson & Johnson’s DePuy Orthopaedics unit issued a worldwide recall for the ASR XL Acetabular Hip Replacement System after data from the National Joint Registry of England and Wales showed that 1 out of every 8 patients (12%-13%) who had received the recalled devices had to undergo revision surgery within five years of receiving it. By then, more than 93,000 patients worldwide were fitted with an ASR hip implant. It is believed that roughly a third of those were patients in the U.S.
DePuy has since been named in scores of product liability lawsuits in the U.S. Late last year, all federal DePuy hip implants lawsuits have been consolidated in a multidistrict litigation before Judge David A. Katz in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.
The DePuy ASR Hip implant lawsuits are only in their preliminary stages. According to a Bloomberg report, lawyers involved in the litigation are trying to agree on how to handle hips and surrounding tissue that are removed during revision surgeries. The issue was discussed at a hearing before Judge Katz earlier this week.
The parties need to agree on how removed implants – known as explants – and tissue will be shipped from hospitals were surgeries take place to labs were they will be tested. They must also agree on testing protocols, Bloomberg said.
A DePuy spokesperson told Bloomberg that the explants belong to the patient, and “the patient’s surgeon should take appropriate steps to preserve them.” According to the spokesperson, DePuy sent a letter to hospitals and surgeons with information about preserving explanted ASR Hip Systems in September.
As we’ve reported in the past, DePuy attempted to get orthopedic surgeons and patients to return the removed hip implants and surrender their medical records to the company in order to receive reimbursement for their revision surgeries. Plaintiffs’ lawyers faulted DePuy’s tactics, saying the explants and medical records would be important evidence in DePuy ASR Hip Implant lawsuits.
The ASR Hip Implant System is a metal-on-metal hip implant made of chromium and cobalt, consisting of a cup that’s implanted into the hip with a ball joint that connects to the leg. It is believed that many of the complications linked to the DePuy ASR XL Acetabular hip implant are caused by wearing of the metal components, which can allow metal shavings to make their way into patients’ bloodstreams, leading to tissue breakdown, bone loss, and even the formation of non-cancerous tumors. The shedding of metal shavings can cause cobalt poisoning, a disorder that, if left untreated, can put patients at risk of tinnitus (ringing in the ears), vertigo, deafness, blindness, optic nerve atrophy, convulsions, headaches, peripheral neuropathy, cardiomyopathy, and hypothyroidism.