Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has been ordered by a Texas federal jury to pay out over $1 billion in punitive and compensatory damages after a lengthy trial ultimately decided in the favor of six plaintiffs who claimed to have suffered severe consequences after being fitted with J&J’s “Pinnacle” hip implants, which are manufactured and distributed by Depuy Pharmaceuticals. The Pinnacle hip implants are a type of implant that utilizes metal-on-metal components, meaning the artificial hip ball, socket and shaft pieces are all made of metal; usually a combination of titanium, nickel, cobalt and/or chromium. In many cases before, including about 93,000 different hip implants also distributed by Depuy and J&J, the metal-on-metal implants have been observed to cause serious health consequences for some users.
Why are these hip implants potentially dangerous?
Metal-on-metal hip implants have been observed to corrode over time and use, releasing microscopic pieces of metal into the patient’s blood stream, which can cause a type of blood poisoning known as metallosis.
Signs of metallosis can include:
- General skin hypersensitivity that results in rashes
- Cardiomyopathy (heart complications)
- Sensory changes such as complications with vision or hearing
- Depression or other unusual mental changes
- Kidney complications
- Thyroid issues such as a throbbing, painful neck, weight gain, fatigue or feeling cold constantly
Aside from these symptoms, the implants can degrade to a point where they can actually break, slip or otherwise malfunction, causing potentially horrible consequences. The plaintiffs in this case also specifically cite suffering from bone and tissue death as a result of the implants.
What if I have a metal-on-metal hip implant?
If you or somebody you love has received a metal-on-metal hip implant from any of these companies:
- Smith & Newphew
Then do some research into the type of hip implant was given. It may very well be one of the hip implants that has been subsequently recalled, and may explain health problems that have emerged after the hip installation. In the case of J&J and their most recent legal scandal, they plan to appeal the decision and maintain that they are not liable for the pain and suffering their devices have caused. The jury disagreed, and felt that J&J and Depuy did not do enough to warn patients of any potential risks associated with the hip implants. Although the enormous sum of over $1 billion will likely be reduced by the courts, the message to the huge companies is clear: you are not untouchable.
At Altman & Altman LLP, we feel the same way. No company, regardless of how big or how valuable, is above the law or above the moral standards and ethics that all medical device manufacturers, distributors and parent companies must adhere to. The responsibility to properly protect patients is far too great to accept anything less than perfection. J&J and Depuy’s lengthy list of lawsuits proves that something is not right with these implants. This case was just one of over 8,000 similar lawsuits surrounding the hip implants, meaning this is not an anomalous problem, but more likely a design flaw which, again, is simply unacceptable. Continue reading