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On June 26, 2012, Judge David A Katz, who is presiding over the DePuy ASR hip Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) in the Northern District of Ohio, signed an order setting the dates for the first two DePuy ASR bellwether trials. These trials will help set the stage in the DePuy ASR litigation, providing other plaintiffs with clues as to how the rest of the lawsuits may play out. Bellwether trials can also open the door to out-of-court settlement negotiations.

Judge Katz determined that the first DePuy ASR bellwether case will go to trial on May 6, 2013. The second bellwether trial will begin on July 8, 2013. Currently, the DePuy ASR MDL involves over 4,000 lawsuits.

DePuy Implements 2010 ASR Recall

Plaintiffs injured by the DePuy ASR typically complain of problems like pain, instability, difficulty walking and standing up, metal poisoning, premature loosening and implant failure. Many have to go through revision surgery to have the allegedly defective implant replaced.

On August 24 2010, DePuy Orthopaedics implemented a recall and pulled all of the ASR systems off the market. At the time, the company acknowledged having received information from the UK National Joint Registry that showed a five-year revision rate of approximately 12 percent for the ASR hip resurfacing system and about 13 percent for the ASR XL acetabular system.

Data from the British Hip Society and the British Orthpaedic Association, however, indicate an even higher percentage of hip failures. They reported a 21 percent failure rate after four years, and a 49 percent rate after six years.

Metal-on-Metal Hip Devices Linked with Metallosis

The DePuy ASR is a metal-on-metal hip device, meaning that a metal ball is inserted into a metal cup. Under certain circumstances, normal wear and tear can cause these components to rub against one another, releasing tiny pieces of cobalt and chromium into the surrounding tissues. Metal contamination can cause tissue inflammation, damage and death, as well as bone damage and bone loss, and even systemic illness.

Hip implant designers initially believed all-metal components would last longer than their ceramic or plastic counterparts, but post-marketing studies and reports revealed a higher-than-normal failure rate for these devices.

On March 12, 2012, the medical journal Lancet published a study that examined the outcomes of more than 400,000 hip replacement surgeries between 2003 and 2011. The results showed that after five years, nearly six percent of patients with metal-on-metal hip implants required revision surgery. In contrast, only 1.7 to 2.3 percent of patients implanted with devices made from ceramic or plastic required revision surgery. Implants that create a higher risk include the DePuy ASR, as well as others like the Biomet M2A Magnum and the Zimmer Durom Cup.

In July 2012, an FDA panel recommended that patients with all-metal implants be monitored regularly for signs of metal contamination.

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