On Monday, February 28, 2011, a class action suit was commenced in the Federal Court of Australia against DePuy Orthopaedics. The suit centers around a recalled DePuy ASR hip implant which is manufactured by DePuy Orthopaedics, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. The leading plaintiff in the action is Tammy Sanford, a resident of Hobart, Tasmania.
Ms. Sanford, a teacher and mother of two, is only 40 years old, but already had three operations since she had the DePuy ASR implanted in her hip five years ago. In her interview with Australia’s The Mercury news, Ms. Sanford described what was found in her body during her most recent January surgery:
“There was a lot of wear and tear in my body and he [the doctor] actually described what he had to scrape out as a black tar, gunky substance and the images of that were just terrifying, thinking that I had that inside me.”
The doctor also found that Ms. Sanford’s hip joint was inflamed, and that the tissue around her bone and joint had severely degenerated. The damage and pain are so severe, that Ms. Sanford is now unable to return to her teaching job. She walks with the aid of crutches and is reliant upon pain relief medications.
The Australian national joint replacement registry estimates that over 5500 patients have been implanted with the DePuy ASR metal hip systems in Australia between 2003 and 2009. The class action suit, led by Ms. Sanford, is on behalf of all these patients and seeks compensations for personal injury, pain and suffering, and economic damages.
DePuy Orthopaedics phased out sales of the ASR implant in Australia, the United States and other countries in late 2009 and early 2010. However, it did not officially recall the product in the United States until August 2010. Prior to the recall, it is estimated that more than 90,000 DePuy ASR systems were sold worldwide, and the latest data shows that 12-13%, or 1 in 8, of these implants may fail within 5 years. As doctors continue to monitor patients who received the ASR implant, the rate of failure is expected to increase past 30%.