The implications are staggering—especially when costs associated with many a Hip Replacement Lawsuit—thousands of them—come into play.
That's billions of dollars, in terms of costs to the health care system for revision surgeries involving failed implants, lost time from the job, and the inevitable lawsuit as patients take manufacturers to task for products that are designed—and promoted—to last upwards of 15 years but are falling far short.
Ten years ago, Americans were mortified to read about the Hip & Knee Replacement Implant Failure associated with Sulzer Orthopedics. At the time, nearly 7,000 patients went after the company for compensation after receiving artificial hips and knees that had become contaminated with industrial oil during the process of manufacturing.
Sulzer paid out $1 billion to settle those claims—at the time, a record.
Ten years on, a billion dollars will seem like a drop in the bucket when compared with the current situation.
Thomas Dougherty was profiled in The New York Times as a hip replacement patient having gone through hip replacement hell. After his initial artificial hip failed early, Dougherty underwent revision surgery this past August, only to have his pelvis fracture soon afterward. A serious infection set in, forcing Dougherty to languish in a reclining chair for five months without a hip, being waited on hand and foot by his spouse.
In December, the 55-year-old Illinois man had surgery for yet another hip replacement.
The cost to his life and livelihood, only Dougherty and his family can answer. But the cost in dollars to the patient's health insurer is closing in at half a million dollars, according to The New York Times: $28,081 in doctors' bills and a staggering $400,776 in hospital costs.
His medical bills due to the failed metal-on-metal hip implant, Dougherty says, are five times what he originally paid for his home.
The metal-on-metal hips were brought to market without thorough testing through a loophole in FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) regulations governing the introduction of medical devices that are "substantially similar" to those already on the market.
However, this rush to market and the lack of pre-market testing has resulted in artificial knees that squeak and prove less robust than promised. Many a Knee Replacement lawsuit has ensued. And metal-on-metal hips, together with those designed to operate without the use of cement, have turned into an expensive horror show. The New York Times reports that the Hip Replacement Lawsuit count has surpassed the 5,000 mark.
What's more, a researcher at Cornell University estimated that once US and overseas data are extrapolated, tens of thousands of Americans might require revision surgeries over the next 10 years.
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At the end of the day, however, it is estimated that some 500,000 patients in the US have received the failure-prone metal-on-metal hip implants.
The suspicion, and perhaps expectation that a half-million revision procedures will still have to be done, remains a sad commentary on device manufacturers, and the FDA regulations that allow for the fast-tracking of largely untested devices to market.
To that point, a recent study revealed that of the new artificial hip and knee implants introduced during the last five years, none were deemed superior to those already on the market and 30 percent were less durable.
Dougherty is preparing a lawsuit with the help of a Hip Replacement Lawyer.