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A $4 billion pain in the hip for Johnson & Johnson

Hip pain can be excruciating. A failing hip can greatly inhibit the ability of a person to manage their day-to-day activities. Unfortunately, hip joints receive a great deal of wear, which is one reason why 400,000 Americans have them replaced every year. In the last decade, many of those hip implants were metal-on-metal. But patients and doctors began to notice problems with these hip implants.

The metal grinding on metal within the implant socket caused a very fine metal debris to be created. Patients were suffering from strange ailments that were eventually attributed to this debris and metal ions migrating into the surrounding tissue and blood stream. 

By 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asked for an additional study on the metal-on-metal implants, but it was becoming clear that these hip implants were a defective product and that patients should avoid them.

In 2012, it was recommended that metal-on-metal implants should not be used by British researchers, after finding an almost triple the number of patients that needed the implants removed because of the problems as compared with ceramic or plastic implants.

A FDA panel concurred, and this year lawsuits started to be filed against Johnson & Johnson for their DePuy metal-on-metal implants. This week came word that settlement of $4 billion would be made to end the 7,500 defective hip implant cases currently pending.

When we go to a doctor and he or she recommends a type of procedure, drug or medical device like a hip implant or pacemaker, we trust that the product is safe and that it will not make us less well or kill us.

The DePuy implant is one more example of why that trust is often misplaced.

Source: CBS News, "Johnson & Johnson to pay $4 billion settlement over metal-on-metal hip implants: Report," Ryan Jaslow, November 13, 2013

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