Manufacturers of controversial metal-on-metal hip implant systems that have failed at rates of up to 13 percent have made a lot of money on these devices. Now, in the wake of medical research, government reports and thousands of metal hip implant lawsuits documenting serious side effects these companies may be facing massive payouts to victims.
In the most recent example, Stryker Corp. is reporting that a hip implant recall that the company initiated last year could cost investors up to $390 million in costs for patient testing and treatment, new surgeries, lawsuits and insurance payments.
There are currently tens of thousands of lawsuits over health problems caused by these medical devices and metal-on-metal hip implant lawyers are continuing to offer free consultations in such cases. Victims who have not filed such lawsuits are still eligible to do so, these lawyers say, but there may be legal time limits involved.
Reuters News Service reported that Stryker said it increased the low end of its expectations for these costs and as a result also raised its related financial reserves. It will result in a fourth-quarter charge of 35 cents per share, or $174 million before taxes, Stryker said.
The recall involves the company’s Rejuvenate and ABG II modular-neck hip devices, which like similar systems manufactured by competitors such as DePuy, Biomet, Wright and others, have been identified as putting patients at risk of serious health problems because the systems are susceptible to corrosion.
When that occurs, a patient’s body can be poisoned by metal particles that flake off, causing tissue damage, inflammation, severe pain and swelling. Those and other life-threatening side effects have been alleged in tens of thousands of metal hip implant lawsuits now pending in state and federal courts.
Reuters reported that the eventual total cost of the recall will depend on several variables, including the number of patients who require testing, follow-up procedures and the cost of Stryker hip lawsuits.
Typically, mass litigation involving class-action lawsuits over defective drugs or medical devices can result in settlement reaching into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Such payments are made to patients for medical costs, pain and suffering, loss of wages and other, related expenses.
On its web site Stryker advised all patients who have the Rejuvenate Modular or ABG II modular-neck hip implants to consult a doctor:
“It is important that you follow-up with your surgeon, even if you are not experiencing symptoms such as pain and/or swelling at or around your hip.”
According to Reuters:
“Stryker’s recall last summer followed similar action from other orthopedic device manufacturers, including Johnson & Johnson, which initiated the biggest hip recall and also subsequently hired Broadspire to help manage patient care and limit its financial exposure.
Hip implants made of all metal, known in the industry as metal-on-metal, have been especially problematic. In addition to high failure rates and other pitfalls, they may release metals into the bloodstream over time. It is unclear what the long-term consequences of high levels of metal in the blood may be.
‘The issue of greatest concern is the potential for elevated metal ions in the bloodstream and the damage that can be caused to the muscles, tendons, soft tissue and bone,’ said Dr. Mary O’Connor, an orthopedic surgeon at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida.
‘Soft tissue damage is more critical than bone damage. If the bone is damaged, we can do something. But if the muscle is dead because it has been poisoned by metal ions, we can’t recreate it,’ she said.”