Patient Safety News: New warning about metal hip implants issued in U.K.

Hip Xray
People who have undergone hip replacement surgery in the United Kingdom are being urged to consult with their health care professionals, to check for health problems including blood toxicity from the metals used in the implants.

The alert issued over the summer by the U.K.’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is a precautionary move, according to government officials. The alert was sent out in response to numerous reports of long term complications — ranging from joint pain and muscle loss to potentially fatal blood poisoning (sepsis) — in patients who received metal-on-metal hip implants.

The MHRA is the UK’s equivalent of the Food and Drug Administration in the United States. The agency is responsible for ensuring the safety of medicines and medical devices. The FDA has not issued a similar alert in the U.S., although the agency has raised concerns about the complications associated with the implants.

“We have updated the current advice to ensure patients with metal on metal hip implants continue to receive appropriate follow up to detect emerging complications should they arise,” Dr. Neil McGuire, MHRA’s Clinical Director of Medical Devices, told media in the UK.

Concerns about metal-on-metal hip implants, including the ASR and Pinnacle products made by DePuy Orthopaedics, have been rising in the United States. Consumers continue to file lawsuits against manufacturers, alleging they failed to warn patients about the risks of the implants.

Johnson & Johnson and DePuy face roughly 8,400 lawsuits over the hip implant devices, and have already been ordered to pay more than $1 billion, mostly in punitive damages, to plaintiffs who claimed they were harmed by Pinnacle hip implants.

Berman & Simmons, the leading firm in Maine for people who have been harmed by dangerous drugs and medical devices, currently represents multiple clients who have been injured by metal on metal hip implants.

“The advisory in the U.K. really underscores what we have known for some time now. Metal-on-metal hip implants can cause a number of health problems, both in the short-term after surgery, and in the long term,” said attorney Susan Faunce, an attorney at Berman & Simmons who handles cases involving dangerous drugs and medical devices.

“Anyone who has had a hip implant needs to work closely with their health care providers to keep an eye out for complications,” Faunce said. “And on the legal side, patients need to understand they may be entitled to compensation if they have been harmed.”