Companies that make metal-on-metal hip implants have been under fire for more than five years, with patients alleging the hip replacement devices—which were touted as being a technological breakthrough—did more harm than good. Among the alleged issues with metal-on-metal devices were an alarmingly high failure rate and high levels of chromium and cobalt in patients' blood stream.
Those high levels of chromium and cobalt are reportedly due to metal debris that comes loose from the hip implant through normal wear and tear, and then is absorbed by the surrounding tissue and migrates to other parts of the body. Many patients who developed problems with their metal-on-metal hip replacement devices required revision surgery to replace their hip implants.
DePuy Orthopaedics recalled its ASR XL in 2010 after reports of that metal-on-metal device failing too early. The device maker paid around $2.5 billion to settle approximately 7,000 lawsuits alleging the ASR XL was defectively designed.
Now the company faces lawsuits concerning the Pinnacle, which is also a metal-on-metal implant design. The jury in the six lawsuits ordered DePuy and Johnson & Johnson to pay $1 billion to the six plaintiffs, finding the Pinnacle was defectively designed and the companies did not adequately warn patients about the risks.
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In the first bellwether case to go to court, the court found in favor of Johnson & Johnson. In the second case, the plaintiffs were awarded $503 million, with a judge reducing the award to $100 million. The $1 billion victory is the third bellwether and the fourth will be heard in mid-2017.
The DePuy Pinnacle MDL is number 2244. As of November 15, 2016, there were 8,661 lawsuits consolidated in the MDL. There are also around 1,450 lawsuits consolidated in MDL 2197 concerning the DePuy ASR.