It looks as though the first trials in the DePuy ASR hip implant multidistrict litigation could begin sometime later this year. According to a report from Bloomberg News, during a status conference held yesterday in Florida, attorneys for both plaintiffs and the defense told U.S. District Judge David Katz that they had agreed that bellwether trials should be held in the DePuy ASR hip implant litigation. The attorneys are now in negotiations to come up with a way to choose suitable cases for trial.
More than 4,200 lawsuits are pending in the DePuy ASR hip implant MDL, which is underway in the U.S. District Court for the District of Northern Ohio. Another 2,000 cases are pending in state courts throughout the country. All of the DePuy ASR hip implant lawsuits share similar allegations that the devices can shed dangerous amounts of metal debris in patients, leading to early implant failure, tissue and possible long-term health problems. According to Bloomberg, the MDL’s bellwether trials will help determine how much responsibility DePuy Orthopaedics and its parent, Johnson & Johnson, bear for those problems, and how much damages might be worth.
DePuy ASR Hip Implant Recall
DePuy Orthopaedics’ ASR Hip Resurfacing System and ASR Acetabular System were named in a global recall in August 2010. The recall was issued 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 devices had to undergo revision surgery within five years. A total of 93,000 implants were sold worldwide, including 37,000 in the U.S.
DePuy ASR Hip Implant Lawsuits
Since the recall was issued, DePuy and Johnson & Johnson have been named in numerous lawsuits by recipients of the recalled implants. According to Bloomberg, Johnson & Johnson said January that it spent about $800 million on the recall in the past two years, though it wouldn’t estimate its product liability costs.
At yesterday’s status conference, defense attorneys reported that Johnson & Johnson has so far produced 37 million pages of documents in discovery. Company witnesses have been subjected to 22 days of deposition, with another 32 days expected.
As we’ve reported previously, DePuy ASR hip implant lawsuits are also proceeding in state courts. The first state claim is expected to go to trial in December in Las Vegas, Nevada. A second lawsuit, this time in Maryland, will go to trial in January.
Metal-on-Metal Hip Implant Issues
Since the DePuy ASR hip implant recall, a growing number of questions have emerged about the safety of all metal-on-metal hip implants. Last May, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) directed 21 companies that market all-metal hip replacements, including DePuy, to conduct post-market studies of their products to determine if they were shedding dangerous amounts of metallic debris in patients. The FDA recently announced that its Orthopaedic and Rehabilitation Devices Panel will meet over June 27 and 28 to discuss the risks and benefits of metal-on-metal hip systems.
Some have called for an end to the use of metal-on-metal implants, following several recent studies that pointed to their dangers. In March, a large study published in The Lancet showed that there is a 6.2 percent chance patients with all-metal hips will need a replacement within five years. A month earlier, a British Medical Journal/BBC investigation revealed that metal-on-metal hip implant manufacturers were aware of mounting evidence linking the devices to serious, long-term health consequences, but for years failed to warn the public about these dangers. The report warned that hundreds of thousands of people around the world may have been exposed to dangerously high levels of toxic and potentially cancer-causing metals from failing metal-on-metal hip implants.