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A Tale of Two Products: What Johnson & Johnson Knew But Did Not Disclose

January 1, 1970 · FLEMING | NOLEN | JEZ, L.L.P.

Over the last few weeks, Johnson & Johnson has been defending itself, it companies, Ethicon and DePuy Orthopedics, and its products, Prolift transvaginal mesh and ASR metal-on-metal hip implant in two separate trials. Plaintiffs in New Jersey and Los Angeles have confirmed what they believed to be true – that Johnson & Johnson and its companies knew of the true risks associated with its products but failed to inform physicians and patients.

Johnson & Johnson Prolift Transvaginal Mesh Trial

Recent testimony of Ethicon’s Worldwide Medical Director supports the following:

  • Prolift transvaginal mesh was marketed despite Ethicon and Johnson & Johnson knowing the true risk of erosion and retraction of the mesh.
  • Company executives knew that erosion could cause the following complications but sold and marketed Prolift transvaginal mesh without any further studies.
    • recurrence
    • need for additional surgeries
    • vaginal distortion
    • dyspareunia (pain with intercourse)
    • chronic pain
  • The true risks were not communicated to physicians and patients.

More testimony is expected this week.

DePuy ASR Metal-on-Metal Hip Implant Trial

In opening statements last week, it was alleged that Johnson & Johnson knowingly sold the ASR metal-on-metal hip implants despite knowing that hundreds of the implants were failing. The company was more concerned with profits than hip implant patients. Plaintiff’s counsel told the jury that internal company documents show Johnson & Johnson executives worried more about profit margin than patient safety.

It was also alleged that internal company documents show that Johnson & Johnson concealed evidence that the ASR hip implant’s design was flawed. The design flaw causes metal debris to shed from the metal-on-metal component parts causing metallosis and hip implant failure.

Johnson & Johnson’s attorney argued that the company acted responsibility and ethically. The company tried to turn the focus onto the plaintiff and blame his failing hip implant on other medical conditions and social habits – diabetes and smoking.

As both of these trials progress, it will be interesting to learn more of what Johnson & Johnson truly knew about its products and failed to disclose.