July 18, 2013 — According to this July 10, 2013 update (PDF) from the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation (JPML), there are currently 494 hip implant lawsuits pending in federal court.
All of the lawsuits involve allegations of defects with the Biomet M2A Magnum, a metal-on-metal hip replacement. Plaintiffs’ claims focus on the alleged propensity of the devices to generate high levels of metal ions, which can cause metallosis (toxic metal poisoning) in the surrounding tissue. This can cause the hip replacement to fail prematurely.
In October 2012, the JPML established the Biomet hip replacement litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, under Judge Robert L. Miller, Jr. The litigation is in pre-trial proceedings while lawyers establish protocols for discovery and the selection of bellwether trials.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is concerned about metal-on-metal hip implants, which were originally marketed as safer and longer-lasting than plastic and ceramic hip replacements. Instead, studies have shown that metal hips have unique risks in addition to the general risks of all hip implants.
The problem with metal-on-metal hip implants is that the ball and cup scrape together whenever a patient moves. Over time, tiny pieces of chromium and cobalt can corrode, chip, and flake off. This metal debris can accumulate in the hip and cause adverse local tissue reactions (pain, inflammation, swelling, soft-tissue growths, etc.). The metals can also seep into a patient’s bloodstream and cause metal poisoning (metallosis).