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Johnson & Johnson Recalls Failing Hip Implants – What’s Next?

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For more than two years, doctors and patients have been complaining to the FDA that hip replacement implants made by Johnson & Johnson’s DePuy Orthopaedics are failing much earlier than expected. In that time, more than 400 complaints have come in. Finally, Johnson & Johnson has announced that it’s recalling two of the failing hip implants.

The failures have caused patients to have to have a second hip replacement not long after their first, which often requires extremely expensive and often very painful operations.

In addition to DePuy’s recall, the F.D.A. this week criticized the company in a warning letter, contending that it had illegally marketed an unapproved knee device and had also sold a hip implant for an unapproved use.

“All this makes it seem like it’s pile-on time for J.& J.,” said William Trombetta, a professor of pharmaceutical marketing at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. “This is a company that was…the gold standard, and all of a sudden it just seems like things are breaking down.”

In the latest Johnson & Johnson case, DePuy said in a statement that it was recalling two products: the ASR XL Acetabular System, a hip socket used in traditional hip replacement, and the ASR Hip Resurfacing System, a partial hip replacement that involves placing a metal cap on the ball of the femur, a method intended to preserve more bone. The traditional implant has been available worldwide, and the resurfacing implant was approved for use in countries outside the United States. About 93,000 of these devices have been implanted worldwide. –NY Times

Given the ever-increasing number of recalled Johnson & Johnson products in recent months, including children’s Tylenol and Acuvue contact lenses, this company is starting to look downright negligent. Johnson & Johnson has said it is willing to pay “reasonable and customary medical costs” incurred by their recalled products, but what about the other costs patients are having to pay because of the mistakes this company made, such as lost wages, unnecessary pain and suffering, and additional rehabilitation?