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Surgeon: "I Was a DePuy Guy"

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Los Gatos, CAIt was in 1996 that Jonathan Black, an industry consultant and professor emeritus of bioengineering at Clemson University, first warned about the potential risks of metal-on-metal implants. He said at the time that enough wasn't known about them—especially for the medical community to leap so enthusiastically at something that looked good on paper but was not adequately tested in the field. Today, Black has been hired by DePuy to advise the Johnson & Johnson subsidiary with regard to the plethora of lawsuits brought by patients of failed DePuy Pinnacle hips.

To that end, the US Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) recently announced the transfer of lawsuits pertaining to DePuy Pinnacle hip replacement to the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas. Judge James E. Kinkeade will preside.

"On the basis of the papers filed and the hearing session held," states the MDL Order, "we find that…centralization under Section 1407 will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the just and efficient conduct of the litigation."

Black, in his role as adviser to DePuy, accurately predicted what many patients have come to experience: tissue and muscle damage, fluid buildup and tumor growth, and metallic toxicity in the bloodstream.

He predicts that the metal-on-metal hip lawsuits against all manufacturers (including DePuy Orthopaedics) will wind up as the largest product liability case this decade.

The all-metal hip implants were initially thought to be superior to existing technology that saw the marriage of a metal ball into a plastic cup. Dr. Edward Littlejohn, an orthopedic surgeon in California who noted in comments to The New York Times June 26 that "I was a DePuy guy," initially embraced the DePuy Pinnacle hip. He explained that he had long used implants from DePuy with much success, and believed the new metal-on-metal implants to be safe, in view of the approval by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) required before a product is allowed onto the market.

His switch to all-metal hips began on a positive note. However, after performing about 40 Pinnacle hip replacement implants in about a year, patients began complaining. One patient, according to Littlejohn, encountered a buildup of grey-colored fluid around her hip. "It has not been fun," Littlejohn said.

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