In the mid 2000’s, metal-on-metal hip implants were introduced, and manufacturers claimed they were medical breakthroughs that would last much longer than traditional hip replacements and would allow patients to lead more active lives. Unlike prior implants that used hard plastic, ceramic, or stainless steel components, metal-on-metal implants used advanced metals including cobalt, chromium, and titanium for all major parts, and they would simply outperform all the implants that had come before them.
This groundbreaking technology turned out to be more harmful than beneficial to many people because as the implant’s metal parts grind together under normal use, they produce tiny metal fragments that can be toxic to surrounding tissue or when released into the bloodstream. When this happens, serious side effects may occur including bone and tissue loss, vision problems, and cardiac issues. Although Johnson & Johnson subsidiary DePuy Orthopedics recalled its Pinnacle metal hip implants from the market in 2013, the company had not yet agreed to a total settlement with victims until just recently.
J&J Agrees to Pay for its Defective Product
In early May, Johnson & Johnson agreed to pay approximately $1 billion to resolve many of lawsuits claiming it sold defective metal-on-metal hip implants that eventually had to be surgically removed. J&J has been accused of not properly testing the safety of this product or warning people of the hip implant’s dangers before selling millions of them to unsuspecting patients. With this latest agreement to pay $1 billion, Johnson & Johnson has now resolved over 95% of the 6,000 cases in which surgeons extracted the Pinnacle hip implants because of defects that left patients unable to walk and in severe pain.
DePuy Orthopedics settled thousands of cases involving the recall of its ASR model hip implants, but the company decided to fight similar claims over its Pinnacle MoM hips. As a result, the company has paid dearly in four multiple-plaintiff cases:
- November 2017 – $246 million for six plaintiffs
- July 2016 – $151 million awarded to five plaintiffs
- March 2016 – $500 million for to five plaintiffs
- December 2016 – $1 billion verdict for six plaintiffs.
Based on the huge awards to victims of the defective Pinnacle hip implants in the last three years, lawyers believed it would only be a matter of time before the company agrees to a full settlement, and that brings us to the amount agreed upon last week by Johnson & Johnson.
In addition to claims by people who were harmed by the implants, Johnson & Johnson and its DePuy Orthopaedics unit agreed to pay $120 million to resolve deceptive marketing claims by several U.S. states over the company’s metal-on-metal hip implants.
History of Defective Hip Implant
Introduced in 2002, DePuy Orthopedics created the Pinnacle hip implant device with metal-on-metal (MoM) construction, in hopes of reducing wear-and-tear of the devices, resulting in more durable and longer lasting implants. According to an article on the website Bloomberg.com, “J&J pulled Pinnacle’s metal-on-metal version of the hip off the market in 2013 after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration toughened regulations covering such devices. Pinnacle hips made out of different materials continue to be sold in the U.S.”
The FDA and doctors have urged patients who’ve received a metal hip implant and experienced any of the symptoms below to see their doctor. Some patients will need revision surgery to replace the defective implants that are causing “metallosis,” which can lead to:
- Bone or tissue damage
- Implant loosening
- Skin rash or hypersensitivity
- Heart failure
- Vision loss
- Depression or cognitive impairment
- Kidney impairment
- Thyroid damage (neck pain, fatigue, weight gain)