The DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc. has been questioned with the way it handled its hip recall, which has resulted to various lawsuits filed.  According to critics, the company may have done it to save money rather than for the patients whose health may have been compromised more because of their defective hip implant devices. Amidst the company’s troubles, DePuy has passed another product through the beleaguered FDA approval process.

A worldwide recall has been announced by the DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc., a division of Johnson & Johnson, of two of its hip replacement systems, the ASR XL Acetabular System and the DePuy ASR Hip Resurfacing Platform last August 2010.  Patients who've had these devices have reported experiencing pain, swelling and difficulty walking which are among the symptoms of metallosis.   This is not the first time that J&J had recalled a product nor is it the first time that its recall process has been questioned.

In the past two years, J&J had recalled more than 50 products ranging from Children’s Tylenol to insulin cartridges to contact lenses.The way J&J handled the recalls has in some cases sparked Congressional and federal criminal investigations. One such case is J&J’s “phantom recall” of the painkiller Motrin wherein it hired a contractor to secretly buy the product from stores before it alerted the general public in 2009 that the pills did not dissolve properly.

Critics alleged that DePuy was saving itself money by settling claims with patients before they fully understand their legal rights or the likely cost of their hip-related medical costs in the future.  This was vehemently denied by DePuy which insisted that hiring Broadspire to handle the recall is to provide efficient assistance to patients and healthcare providers.   The hiring of Broadspire may make economic sense for J&J by saving the company the trouble of gearing up and organizing in-house, but it has also the effect of distancing the company from patients, said David Prince, professor of law at William Mitchell College of Law.

"By pawning this process off on a third party, they don't have to deal face to face with patients, and may be less sensible to the human cost of what their product has done," he said. Prince specializes in product liability and has represented both plaintiffs and defendants in the past.   “If I were a patient I'd be very unhappy if someone I trusted, my own doctor, recommended a procedure and someone stood in the way. I would find that intolerable,” said Prince, adding “in a larger sense, this is a clash between the individual and his or her needs, and the broad corporate interest.” 

Some 93,000 people have been implanted with DePuy's ASR hip system worldwide. Compared to the 2001 hip implant recall of the Sulzer Medica AG, a Swiss medical device maker, this hip replacement recall is said to be three times larger and much more complex.