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Lines in the Sand: DePuy and Johnson & Johnson Take Hard Line Stance over Pinnacle Metal on Metal Hip Failures

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

When the DePuy ASR hip crisis escalated in 2010, DePuy Orthopaedics (a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary) took certain measures to assist affected patients, such as setting up a process to handle and compensate claims. At minimum, DePuy recognized there were problems and consequences to the ASR hip system. Johnson & Johnson also set aside $3 billion dollars to handle ASR settlement claims. But sadly, there is no such cognizance with regards to DePuy’s metal on metal Pinnacle hips. Instead, both DePuy and Johnson & Johnson have taken a hard line stance against thousands of suffering patients.

It should be noted that DePuy Pinnacle metal on metal hips are still on the market in the United States today. This product remains a huge source of income for both DePuy and Johnson & Johnson. But Pinnacle hip systems often have metal on metal parts and affect patients in ways remarkably similar to those suffering from an ASR hip failure. Patients who have had a metal on metal Pinnacle hip system implanted often experience symptoms such as dislocations, pain, swelling, difficulty walking, and metallosis. There are now over 1600 filed lawsuits from patients claiming damages from a DePuy Pinnacle hip and more forthcoming. It is estimated that over 150,000 patients in the United States have had a DePuy Pinnacle metal on metal hip implanted.

Yet despite remarkably high numbers of affected consumers and nearly identical problems to their ASR hips, DePuy and Johnson & Johnson have chosen to play hardball over Pinnacle lawsuits. Johnson & Johnson refuses to recognize or compensate patient claims of Pinnacle metal on metal hip failures. And Johnson & Johnson has not set a single penny in reserve to settle DePuy Pinnacle hip cases. Paul Voorhorst, director of biostatistics and data management at DePuy, opined to an FDA advisory panel that the Pinnacle metal-on-metal hip system “is performing consistent with or better than other metal-on-metal products.” Frankly, that’s not saying much.

Basically, DePuy claims the Pinnacle is the so called “best” in the class of metal on metal hip systems that are failing rapidly across the board. Most manufacturers of metal on metal hips are now facing lawsuits due to the high rate of failure in these hips. Doctors estimate that 10% of all metal on metal DePuy Pinnacle hips will fail in the next 2-3 years. Unfortunately, in the foreseeable future it is likely DePuy and Johnson & Johnson will fight tooth and nail until plaintiffs achieve success in the Pinnacle Multi-District Litigation and/or the FDA forces the company to recall its metal on metal Pinnacle hips.