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What Will the Final Cost of the DePuy Hip Replacement Recall Be?

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Dallas, TXWith the number of DePuy Hip lawsuits reportedly passing the 3,500 mark, experts are weighing in about the potential final cost of the DePuy hip replacement recall. DePuy hip implants, which were recalled in 2010 due to an abnormally high failure rate, were supposed to have offered patients new hip replacement options, but some patients say the hips caused massive problems.

Experts cited by The New York Times (12/27/11) reportedly believe the hip replacement costs—involving DePuy and other hip replacement companies—could reach billions of dollars. This includes not only the cost of replacing the hip implant but also the cost of any complications, including infections that could set in as a result of the hip implant failure. So far, the total number of lawsuits involving all metal-on-metal hip manufacturers has passed 5,000, with 3,500 of those being filed against DePuy.

Peter Cohan, writing for Forbes (12/28/11), predicts the costs to Johnson & Johnson—parent company to DePuy Orthopaedics—and Zimmer, could reach $5 billion. Zimmer has said that its implants are safe.

The New York Times gives the example of Thomas Dougherty, who had revision surgery in August to replace his metal-on-metal hip implant, which failed early. Following the revision surgery, Dougherty suffered a fractured pelvis and then an infection. So far, he has paid more than $420,000 in hospital and doctors' bills related to his care.

And, although DePuy has offered to pay some medical costs related to revision surgery, some patients allege they faced threats of collection agencies sent by hospitals before DePuy made those payments.

The problem is reportedly related to the metal-on-metal nature of the hip implants. Unlike traditional hip implants, which involve a ceramic or other component, metal-on-metal devices use a metal ball and metal socket, which can cause metallic debris to come loose and be absorbed by the patient's tissue. The condition, known as metallosis, can cause extreme pain and lack of mobility in the area. In serious cases, the patient may suffer total failure of the hip and undergo revision surgery to replace the metal-on-metal device; but revision surgery comes with its own set of possible complications and requires the patient to take time to recover.

Traditional hip implants are generally expected to last 15 years. According to some studies, the DePuy ASR had a failure rate of 12 percent after only five years. Furthermore, according to a study cited by The New York Times, no new artificial hip or knee that has been introduced in a recent five-year period has been shown to be more durable than traditional devices.

As more metal-on-metal hip devices fail, more lawsuits could be filed against the makers of all-metal hip devices.

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