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M. Brandon Smith
M. Brandon Smith
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Why Did DePuy & Doctors Downplay Cobalt & Chromium Poisoning in Hip Replacement Patients?

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Thousands of patients receiving faulty DePuy ASR hip implants have had to undergo revision surgery. But the solution to these patients’ health problems isn’t simply a corrective surgery. A number of these patients are suffering from cobalt and chromium poisoning. DePuy has recalled two of its hip replacement systems, the ASR XL Acetabular System and DePuy ASR Hip Resurfacing System. However, the recall did not occur overnight. Instead, it only occurred after more than two years of complaints from consumers about hip failure and the sale of more than 93,000 units.

The recalled implants can cause a serious condition known as metallosis. Many patients are suffering from this condition. Metallosis occurs when the metal-on-metal movement of the hip implant causes friction and releases potentially dangerous levels of chromium and cobalt ions into the body. This condition can result in nerve damage and rashes. It can also require the need for corrective surgery.

Yet, despite the severe cobalt and chromium poisoning risks associated with the recalled implants, the DePuy website and their information to doctor’s and their patients have failed to highlight those very real risks. In fact, both the website and the notes have downplayed the serious negative impact of toxic cobalt levels on patients commonly referred to as cobaltism.

As mentioned earlier, the health issues are not limited to cobalt and chromium poisioning. New data shows that five years after implantation, approximately 12% of patients (1 in 8) who had received the ASR resurfacing device and 13% of patients (1 in 8) who had received the ASR total hip replacement needed to have a revision surgery.

Faulty DePuy ASR hip implants are more than just a minor inconvenience for patients. With the possibility of chromium or cobaltism and a potential revision surgery looming, patients need to receive additional testing and monitoring even if they haven’t yet experienced any problems. The negative effects are too serious to ignore. Additionally, while DePuy has said it intends to cover “reasonable and customary costs” of treatment, including revision surgery if it is necessary, the “reasonable and customary costs” language is ambiguous in that DePuy plans to only cover out of pocket expenses like co-pays and deductibles of one’s private health insurance. They have no current plans to pay for the actual costs of the procedures, for pain and suffering or any other aspect of one’s mental anguish associated with their admitted errors and defective ASR Hip Implant.

Cobalt and chromium poisoning pose very serious health risks. As a result, patients encountering these problems need to address their health issues right away.