On May 16, 2011, a judicial panel in Kentucky will hear arguments for consolidating all claims for injury related to defective DePuy Pinnacle metal-on-metal hip implants. The Pinnacle implants are similar to previously recalled DePuy ASR hip implants, which showed excessive failure rates and the necessity for revision surgery. With metal implants such as these, metal shavings can break off and make their way into surrounding tissue, then leaching into the bloodstream.
Implant Failures and Metallosis
Metal-on-metal implants like the Pinnacle systems have two main weaknesses. First, if not placed at a precise angle, the parts can wear against each other excessively, causing metal shavings to lodge into the surrounding tissue. The metal parts are made of cobalt and chromium. The cobalt can cause metallosis, a condition that can kill tissue surrounding the implant and lead to bone loss. This results in severe pain and inflammation for patients. The only way to correct the problem is through a painful and costly revision surgery.
Second, even in correctly placed joints, the cobalt from the implant leaches into the blood stream during normal wear. In malfunctioning joints, wear causes these levels of cobalt to become toxic. According to a report by the State of Alaska Health and Social Services department, blood levels often rise to 100 times above normal. Those with impaired kidney function are at higher risk of toxicity because their kidneys cannot clear the blood of all toxins. Cobalt poisoning can cause vision problems, cardiomyopathy (chronic disease of the heart), cognitive impairment, hearing loss, hypothyroidism, neuropathy (disease of the brain) and skin rashes.
The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation in Louisville, Kentucky will convene to decide if the court should put the federal DePuy Pinnacle cases together under Multi-District Litigation (MDL). The case, DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc., Pinnacle Hip Implant Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 2244, if granted MDL status, will consolidate the cases for a single federal judge to oversee. Any Pinnacle cases filed in federal court or assigned to federal court will become part of the MDL. Cases in state courts will not be consolidated.
DePuy is a subsidiary Johnson & Johnson, one of the largest companies in the world. DePuy sold over 150,000 Pinnacle devices, making this case larger than the previous ASR case. Thousands of legal complaints name the company as defendant in suits for failed hip implants nationwide.
Although DePuy has not yet recalled the Pinnacle system, it seems likely that the Food and Drug Administration will put pressure on the company to do so. The same metal-on-metal problems that plagued the recalled ASR system are causing problems for Pinnacle. A recall of these devices is the only way to ensure that no more patients suffer the same problems with their hip implants.
If you or someone you love required revision surgery because of a failed DePuy Pinnacle implant, contact our office. Our knowledgeable staff attorneys understand the laws governing defective medical devices. We will meet with you free of charge and help you decide if a DePuy hip implant lawsuit is the right action for you.