U.S. Congress Calls for Investigation into the Safety of Metal-on-Metal Hip - Is it too late?

Bloomberg News reported on October 12, 2011 that a group of Democratic leaders urged the U.S. Congress to probe deeper into the safety of metal-on-metal hips, like Johnson & Johnson’s ASR hip system. In the past, the Energy and Commerce Committee has held hearings on the delays in device approvals. However, this time Representative Henry Waxman and others sent a letter to Republicans imploring them to focus on the safety of the metal-on-metal hip implants, like the ASR hip system.

The Congressmen requested the hearing because the FDA has received over 5,000 complaints related to the metal-on-metal hip systems, like Johnson & Johnson’s ASR and Pinnacle hip systems. Unfortunately, this is just another signal of what the NY Times characterized as the largest public health failure in U.S. history.

More and more evidence suggests that metal-on-metal hips are not what most thought they would be – an innovation that would last longer and allow for more physical activity after hip replacement. Instead, the metal-on-metal hip implants failure rate is on the rise. The National Joint Registry for England and Wales reported that their data showed that the metal-on-metal hip implants failed at a significantly higher rate than traditional hip implants.

The recent call for scrutiny on the safety of the metal-on-metal hip implants just may be too late for those who have been negatively impacted by the implants. The U.S. Congress may also want to focus on how these devices, like the ASR and Pinnacle, are approved by the FDA instead of focusing on the delay of approvals.