The human tragedy of the most widespread medical implant failure in decades continues to unfold. These involve thousands of all-metal artificial hips that need to be replaced. And now as the litigation slowly grinds on, it has entered its most important phase of cost, both in financial terms and the cost of human suffering.
Medical and legal experts estimate the hip failures may ultimately cost billions of dollars in coming years. The metal-on-metal hip device’s ball and joint are made of metal, are failing at high rates within a few years instead of lasting 15 years or more. The grinding of metal parts against each other is generating metal ions that is damaging tissue and crippling patients. This medical condition known as metallosis.
All-metal hip implants accounted for nearly one-third of the estimated 250,000 hip replacements performed each year in the United States. According to experts, 500,000 patients have received an all-metal replacement hip. According to a new study, no new artificial hip or knee introduced in the last five years were more durable than older devices, and 30 percent were worse.
One all-metal model, the DePuy ASR, implanted in 40,000 patients in the United States, was recalled last year by the DePuy division of Johnson & Johnson.
10 years ago, Sulzer Orthopedics paid a record $1 billion to settle claims by 6,800 patients who received artificial hips and knees that were contaminated with industrial oil during the manufacturing process.
Along with ASR related cases, DePuy also faces over 560 lawsuits in connection with the all-metal version of another hip model, called the Pinnacle.
Now the insurance companies and Medicare are notifying patients that they expect to be reimbursed for the cost of the re-do hip surgery, a process called subrogation.
Any potential settlement is unclear at this time and DePuy has not announced any global settlement like Sulzer did 10 years ago.