Johnson & Johnson Gambled on Hip Implant Safety, Lawyer Alleges

Published: Mar 01, 2013

Healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson played "Russian roulette" with patient safety by ignoring high failure rates and surgeons' complaints about its once-popular artificial hip, a Los Angeles jury was told during closing arguments at a high-stakes medical trial for the company. Jurors heard arguments from both sides Thursday in a case that pits the world's biggest seller of medical products against Loren Kransky, a 65-year-old former prison guard in Montana who claims he suffered metal poisoning and other health problems from the company's ASR XL hip implant he received in 2007. The company "knew this hip was defective long before Mr. Kransky got it," Brian Panish, one of Kransky's attorneys, told the 12 jurors and one alternate. "They wanted to play Russian roulette with patients. This defendant didn't care about patient safety." J&J has denied Kransky's claims that it designed a defective hip implant and failed to warn patients about the risks. Attorneys for J&J have said that Kransky's ailing health was due to his diabetes, kidney cancer and other long-standing medical problems. Based in New Brunswick, N.J., the company recalled about 93,000 ASR artificial hips in 2010 after they were tied to higher-than-expected failure rates. Last week, the company disclosed that federal officials are investigating the marketing of these hip replacements, a lucrative business as baby boomers age and their joints give out. The company said it is cooperating fully with the government inquiry. The closely watched trial began Jan. 25, and it's the first of several thousand suits to reach trial nationwide about this all-metal hip, introduced in 2005 by DePuy, the orthopedic division of J&J. The outcome of this case could portend what the financial fallout will be for J&J. Last year, the company took a $3-billion charge to cover costs related to the ASR hip recall, legal expenses and other related items. The case went to the jury Thursday and deliberations are expected to begin Friday.

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