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JNJ Faces First Lawsuit Over All-Metal Hips

On Friday, Jan. 25, in Los Angeles, Calif., Johnson & Johnson faced the first of approximately 10,000 lawsuits brought against it regarding the failure of its metal on metal hip implants. All-metal implants have been shown to deposit metal fragments into the bloodstream, which could possibly cause metal poisoning. JNJ unit DePuy Orthopedics pulled its ASR hip implants off the market two years ago.

Previously sealed court records show that plaintiff lawyer Brian J. Devine asked about a graph showing the company’s review of 554 implanted hips through September 2011, and how many would fail and require revision surgery. In pretrial testimony, DePuy biostatistician Paul Voorhorst said that the company internally predicted a failure rate of 37 percent within 4.6 years.

According to DePuy spokeswoman Lorie Gawreluk, the company was “looking out for patient interests by analyzing data” on the ASR hip system.

Loren Kransky brought the first suit JNJ is facing in court. He had his all-metal ASR hip implant removed due to suspected heavy-metal poisoning. During the trial, photographs were shown of his revision surgical site where metal flakes were visible. Audio from the operating room was played in which his surgeon said Kransky “might die” if the implant was not removed. The defense attorney asserted Kransky suffered from a litany of pre-existing conditions, and that he did not get worse because of the implant or better once it was removed.

According to Kransky’s lawyers in a Jan. 7 court filing, DePuy’s 2009 decision to stop selling its ASR hip implants was made by a process called “rationalization.” A memo from DePuy’s U.S. director of hip marketing Paul Berman to the company sales force read, “This global rationalization is consistent with DePuy’s strategy to streamline its portfolio, reduce cost and reallocate resources to high growth brands and technologies that best meet the current and future needs of surgeons and patients.”

DePuy “has consistently claimed it recalled the ASR for purely ‘financial reasons,’” Kransky’s lawyers wrote. DePuy then “attempted to pivot off that position, claiming the real reason it recalled the ASR was for a ‘remedial or precautionary measure.’”

Kransky’s lawyers argued that DePuy sought to deem the recall a “remedial measure” so that it could exclude certain evidence from the trial.

New Brunswick, N.J.-based Johnson & Johnson produces medical devices in a range of segments. DePuy Orthopedics is located in Warsaw, Ind.

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