Slow response to hip implants

Slow response to hip implants

Many patients have suffered ‘needlessly’ because of a slow response by a government watchdog to ban faulty metal-on-metal hip implants, according to a committee of MPs. The Science and Technology Committee said the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) was ‘slow in responding’ to concerns about the implants and said that it was ‘disappointing’ that problems were picked up several years before a worldwide recall of DePuy ASR metal-on-metal hip implants.

It was only in 2010 that the MHRA issued a product recall. The problems were noticed in Australia in 2007 and the implants were removed in Australia in December 2009 but a worldwide recall was not made until August 2010.

‘The European Commission and UK Government must improve the speed with which information from adverse incident reporting abroad is handled and acted upon,’ the MPs said. ‘… It is disappointing that problems with metal-on-metal hip implants were picked up several years before the worldwide recall and it appears that the MHRA was slow in responding to data emerging from Australia. Because of that delay, many patients have suffered needlessly.’

The Altogether Hip Patient Support Group, for people fitted with such implants, told the committee that the MHRA did not prioritise patient wellbeing. ‘The MHRA seems to be a totally ineffective body working on behalf of the corporations rather than patients,’ members of the group told the committee.

What’s the problem? Metal-on-metal hip replacements and hip resurfacings have not performed as well as hoped. They were expected to last longer than the older designs – using a metal head and a polyethylene cup – however the current evidence indicates otherwise. Not only that, but the way in which they fail is of concern as they can cause extensive damage to the muscles, tendons, ligaments and even the bone around the joint.

What about the DePuy ASR implant? This has performed far worse than other designs. It has been alleged that its design is defective and unsafe. The cup, in particular, can wear out very quickly, leading to metal debris entering the surrounding tissue and into the patient’s blood. Rather than lasting 25 years or more, as expected, almost half of patients have had to have the implants replaced within six years and many patients have had to have revision surgery only two years after having the implant fitted. The outcome of revision surgery can be poor, with some patients having impaired mobility, some suffering persistent pain, dislocations and a greater risk of further surgery.

Our experience? We have acted for over 300 patients who have ASR implants. They are bringing claims against the manufacturer for compensation for the pain and suffering, lost earnings, the cost of past and future care and medical treatment and other financial losses they have suffered as a result.


photo: Cindy Funk

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