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Judge Orders Wright Medical to Produce Documents on Profemur

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On February 8, 2012, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) consolidated all federal Wright Conserve hip lawsuits into the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. Judge William S. Duffey, Jr., was assigned to oversee the proceedings. At the time, four cases were brought together from Arizona, California, Utah, and Georgia, with 16 additional cases believed to be potential tag-along actions likely to be transferred to the new MDL.

Now, according to a new order signed on September 4, 2012, the defendants must produce information and documents regarding problems associated with Wright Profemur neck stems. So far, Wright Medical has resisted producing such documents, stating they relate to the Profemur implant, not the Conserve. Judge Duffey, however, recently concluded that the documents are relevant, and must be produced.

Plaintiff Claims Profemur and Conserve Components Related

According to court documents, the plaintiffs requested these documents months ago to obtain information about the function and design of the Profemur neck stem. They argued that the component was an integral part of the flawed design for the Wright Conserve metal-on-metal hip replacement system, which was released on the market after the Profemur.

Plaintiffs also wanted to see the documents regarding the Profemur because one of the complaints in the Conserve MDL involves issues regarding the interaction between the Profemur neck and the Conserve Wright cup hip replacement system.

Unlike other hip systems, the Wright Profemur was originally marketed as being revolutionary because it had a modular neck component. It features a neck that fits inside a separate stem, giving the surgeon options in matching the device to the patient. This design, however, was later found to cause corrosion at the modular neck junction, which can lead to pain, swelling, pseudotumors, and early hip failure.

In the one complaint involving both Profemur and Conserve components, the plaintiff alleges that the design that was supposed to make the Wright Cup revolutionary—the device's bendable neck—is a feature that caused it to fail, creating increased metal corrosion at the junction of the femoral head component and the neck of the femoral stem.

Judge Grants Plaintiff's Request

The judge agreed with the plaintiffs, and ruled that discovery regarding the Profemur is generally appropriate. He stated that the plaintiffs were entitled to information and documents regarding the neck's function in the implant design; any concerns or risk associated with the neck component; notice and investigation of neck corrosion, fretting, and actual or potential failure; and the effect of such side effects on the implant's use and effectiveness.

The judge added that the plaintiffs could also seek discovery on any compensation Wright may have paid to physicians and consultants who were involved in the design, testing, investigation, evaluation of, and development and implementation of the strategy to market the Conserve device.

Plaintiffs have filed a number of lawsuits concerning injuries allegedly caused by both the Wright Conserve and the Wright Profemur implants. Both involve claims of metal contamination and poisoning that leads to health complications and the need for revision surgery within a few years of implantation.