UK Regulators Ramp up Precautions for Metal Hip Implants

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Weitz & Luxenberg released a statement today saying that the British Hip Society has advised physicians to stop using a type of metal hip implant that has come under intense scrutiny for the potential dangers it causes to patients. The BHS statement comes just days after the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency also issued stiffer warnings concerning metal-on-metal hip implants, which have been linked to early failure and a variety of medical complications.

Our clients and similar injured hip implants recipients were the victims of a devastating and avoidable medical debacle fueled by profits instead of science.

The British Hip Society, a committee of British orthopedic experts, announced on March 1st that it would advise physicians to stop using large diameter metal-on-metal hip systems for hip replacement procedures. These prosthetic joints, which have come under increasing scrutiny in recent years, continue to be sold and marketed by at least a half-dozen manufacturers, despite claims that they cause premature failure, tissue damage, and metal toxicity.

The British Hip Society’s salvo aimed at large diameter metal-on-metal hips came just days after the British Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the British body responsible for the safety of drugs and medical products in the United Kingdom, issued revised guidelines for the use of metal-on-metal hip implants. In a move addressing growing concerns surrounding failing hip prostheses implanted in millions of patients, the MHRA released a medical device alert for all metal-on-metal hip replacements.

The British Hip Society advisement said that large diameter metal-on-metal devices should no longer be used for total hip replacement procedures except in approved research studies. The warning endorsed the MHRA’s new guidelines, which call for increased monitoring of metal-on-metal hip patients to look for signs of toxicity.

Multiple studies have shown that metal-on-metal hips, which have two cobalt-chromium surfaces that rub together, can release metal into the body, which can lead to metallosis, necrosis of surrounding tissues, joint damage, and other complications.

The stricter guidelines call for monitoring of all patients with large diameter metal-on-metal implants for the lifetime of the device. The monitoring regime for one manufacturer’s hip implant device calls for blood tests, MRIs, and ultrasounds for all symptomatic and unsymptomatic patients.

The heightened safety advisories come at a time of rapidly increasing concern regarding metal hips. An article published in the British Medical Journal last month examined new evidence on the safety of these metal-on-metal products, concluding that regulation of these devices is “in need of radical change.” The article cited problems ranging from premature hip implant failure to possible concerns about carcinogenicity from metal ions.

In addition to the attention being given to the medical dangers of metal hips, legal action is being taken against their manufacturers, who plaintiffs say failed to warn of the dangers their products posed while continuing to market them extensively. Ellen Relkin, an attorney with the medical devices division of Weitz & Luxenberg, P.C. and co-lead counsel for the In re: DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc. ASR Hip Implant Products Liability Litigation (MDL 2197), said that her firm is among those representing clients injured by metal hips.

“These heightened regulations indicate a concern for patients that the plaintiff’s bar has felt for years,” said Relkin. “Hundreds of our clients would have benefited from standards like the ones the MHRA is enacting here. Unfortunately, our clients and similar injured hip implant recipients were the victims of a devastating and avoidable medical debacle fueled by profits instead of science."

The British Medical Journal ran an article last week about the dangers associated with certain metal hip systems and the tightened regulations in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe, while the BBC is scheduled to air a special about metal on metal implants in the coming months.

About Weitz & Luxenberg:

Founded in 1986 by attorneys Perry Weitz and Arthur Luxenberg, Weitz & Luxenberg, P.C., today ranks among the nation’s leading law firms. Weitz & Luxenberg has secured more than $6.5 billion in verdicts and settlements for its clients. The firm's numerous practice areas include: asbestos and mesothelioma, defective medicines and devices, environmental pollutants, accidents, personal injury, and medical malpractice. Victims of accidents are invited to rely on Weitz & Luxenberg’s more than 25 years of handling such cases – begin by contacting the firm’s Client Relations department at 1-800-476-6070 or at clientrelations@weitzlux.com and ask for a free legal consultation. More information: http://www.weitzlux.com

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Dave Kufeld
Weitz & Luxenberg P.C.
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