The High Cost of Failing Artificial Hips

On December 27, 2011, the New York Times published an article regarding the financial cost of recent recalls and problems associated with all-metal hip replacements. According to medical and legal experts, the recent failure of metal-on-metal hip replacements may cost insurers and patients billions of dollars in the future. The financial repercussions have the potential of reaching such elevated costs because the problems involve an entire class of medical devices – all-metal hips – and are not restricted to a specific company or hip replacement model.

While not addressed in the article, economic losses may also include future loss of earning capacity associated with a metal-on-metal hip implant failure.

The article does not include an analysis of the non-economic losses suffered by patients with failed metal-on-metal hip implants. Those costs can include damages such as past and future medical expenses, past and future physical pain and mental anguish, past and future physical impairment, and past and future physical disfigurement.

Metal-on-metal hips have come under increased scrutiny in recent years. Although advertised to last 15 years or more, many of these devices have failed within a few years. The failure of metal-on-metal hips can often be attributed to the wear of metal parts in the hip device. The wear generates debris that can damage tissue and cause pain in patients.

The popularity of all-metal hip implants was apparent up until a few years ago. These devices used to comprise approximately one-third of hip replacements done each year in the United States. Recent estimates indicate that as many as 500,000 patients may have undergone a metal-on-metal hip replacement in the United States. Recent studies indicate that none of the newer models of artificial hips was more durable than older devices. In fact, these studies found that 30 percent of the newer hip devices were actually worse than older devices.          

Many patients implanted with an all-metal hip device have filed lawsuits in recent years. Approximately 5,000 complaints and lawsuits have been brought against the makers of metal-on-metal hip replacements. When insurance companies become aware of a patient’s lawsuit, they typically notify the insured that they expect a reimbursement of expenses from any settlement proceeds obtained through the lawsuit.

The DePuy ASR metal-on-metal hip device, marketed by Johnson & Johnson, is an all-metal hip device that has faced marked scrutiny in recent years. According to the article, approximately 3,500 lawsuits involving the ASR have since been filed against DePuy and Johnson & Johnson since the recall of the device late last year.

As of December 28, 2011, court records indicate that approximately 3,660 cases have been filed related to the DePuy ASR.

Although DePuy is paying for some costs associated with the ASR, the company is not covering costs related to the Pinnacle, another all-metal hip device produced by DePuy that is under increased scrutiny. According to the article, over 560 lawsuits have been filed against DePuy related to the Pinnacle device.

As of December 28, 2011, court records indicate that approximately 802 cases have been filed in the DePuy Pinnacle MDL.

See the full New York Times article at: 


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