Local woman among plaintiffs given flawed hip implant; 1st trials begin in February

CHAMPAIGN — Nobody has to tell Sally Newman about the misery of living with a faulty all-metal hip implant.

The one she got, a product recalled in 2010 that is now subject to thousands of lawsuits across the country, had the kind of metal-on-metal design described in a recent updated Food and Drug Administration safety warning about all-metal hip implants.

A former Provena Covenant Medical Center nurse, the 66-year-old Champaign woman underwent hip replacement surgery in 2008 with an all-metal ASR hip system made by Johnson & Johnson's DePuy Orthopaedics division.

Newman says she has gone through six surgeries in connection with her original hip implant, revisions and related procedures.

During part of that time, she says, she spent seven months confined to a recliner chair.

"I often said if I could just stand on two feet again and move, I'd be happy," she recalls.

Her lawsuit and others in Illinois against the manufacturer have been transferred by a state Supreme Court order to Cook County, said Joseph Phebus, an Urbana attorney whose firm, Phebus & Koester, is handling lawsuits for nearly 60 central Illinois hip implant patients, including Newman.

The first trials for Illinois patients will begin in February, said Ryan Bradley, an attorney with that firm.

Their own clients' lawsuits don't include any of the hospitals or doctors involved in the surgeries as defendants, he said.

DePuy announced a voluntary recall on its ASR hip system in August 2010, citing higher-than-expected five-year surgery revision rates of 12 percent and 13 percent.

The company promised to cover reasonable costs of monitoring and treatment, including revision surgeries, associated with the recall.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that newly disclosed court documents showed Johnson & Johnson was aware in 2011, not long after it launched the recall, that the ASR device would fail within five years in nearly 40 percent of all who received it, and the company didn't release those findings.

The FDA last week issued updated safety concerns about all metal-on-metal hip implants, cautioning doctors and patients that the tiny metal particles released as the metal ball and metal cup slide against each other during walking or running may damage bone and/or soft tissue.

Soft-tissue damage can cause pain, it can cause the implant to become loose, the device to fail and prompt the need for revision surgery, and some metal ions released will enter the bloodstream, the agency said.

Doctors were cautioned to select all-metal hip systems only if their benefits outweigh those of using an alternative system, for example, a ceramic-on-metal implant.

Newman says she first sought out hip replacement in 2008 due to osteoarthritis pain that made it painful to walk and sit, and her doctor confirmed her right hip was "pretty much worn out."

She had to go back to work 11 weeks after her surgery, walking with a cane, and later learned she would need revision surgery. But problems developed after the revision surgery, and her second hip implant had to be removed.

Before she eventually went back for yet another implant surgery, she spent months getting around with a walker, wheelchair and hopping on one foot and suffered from a post-surgery infection that required months of treatment, she said.

"You just keep thinking, gosh, I just want to be able to get up, I just want to walk," she said. "You don't get to do ordinary things like take a shower."

A doctor eventually got her back on her feet with yet another hip implant, another metal one that hasn't given her any trouble, "knock on wood," she says.

But she'll never push a lawn mower again or do some of the other more active things she used to enjoy because she can't risk an injury, Newman says. And while she had hoped to work to age 70, her days of working as a physical rehabilitation nurse are over.

"So, I'm kind of officially retired, whether I want to be or not," she says.

Bradley said his firm is also representing some people who got implants with a Stryker hip implant product on recall.

"We have clients who had to miss so much work they ate up all their leave time and lost their jobs," he said.

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SKS3777 wrote on January 25, 2013 at 11:01 am

I am not a fan of litigation, but when someone like this lovely woman has lost use of her lower extremities, been through incredible pain, lost her job and livlihood, and suffered through multiple surgeries, I say, hit 'em where it hurts!  It is important to have the highest quality of products for patients, but don't leave out the TESTING portion of the protocol on these types of things!  We can't wait to put a new drug or product on the market so that the coompanies can rake in the dough, but what about the patients who are negatively impacted as a result of a rush to sale.  It's all too commonplace anymore.  It should be safety above all else!  Sally deserves every dime she can get!

VBP2007 wrote on January 25, 2013 at 12:01 pm

It is amazing that the pharmaceutical companies are allowed to behave in this manner.  It appears that Stryker hips are the next ones on the chopping block. The pain and suffering that these people are going through is unspeakable.... all for a few extra dollars.  The sad thing is that even with the huge settlements that they are going to have to pay out, they are still making money off of these defective products. 

SaintClarence27 wrote on January 25, 2013 at 2:01 pm

I just hope people remember stuff like this next time pols are screaming for "tort reform" or crying that litigation is the reason medical expenses are so high. Since we allow heartless corporations to make decisions, we have to find ways to hold them accountable. Since they are making decisions solely based on money, we have to make sure that that line of reasoning leads them to good decisions - make the wrong decision *REALLY* expensive for them.