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Johnson & Johnson ASR hip trial, closing arguments in L.A.

Closing arguments to begin in Johnson & Johnson hip trial in L.A.

From the LA Teims, by Chad Terhune, February 28, 2013

Closing arguments are set to begin Thursday in Los Angeles in a high-stakes trial where healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson is accused of negligence in designing and marketing a once-popular artificial hip.

The case in Los Angeles County Superior Court pits the world’s biggest maker of medical products against Loren Kransky, a 65-year-old former prison guard who claims he suffered metal poisoning and other health problems from the company’s ASR hip implant he received in 2007.

J&J, based in New Brunswick, N.J., recalled about 93,000 of these 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 increasingly give out.

The company said it is cooperating fully with the inquiry.

J&J has denied Kransky’s claims that it defectively designed this 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 longstanding medical problems.

This case began Jan. 25 and it’s the first of several thousand suits to reach trial nationwide centered on this all-metal hip introduced in 2005 by DePuy, the orthopedic division of 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.

Lisa McGiffert, director of Consumers Union’s Safe Patient Project, said the ASR artificial hip and other all-metal designs have caused serious medical problems for thousands of patients. She said this case serves as a reminder to consumers to conduct extensive research on any medical implant that's being recommended by their doctor.

"Too many patients go in blindly and don't ask enough questions about the manufacturer or what materials go into these medical devices," McGiffert said. "They are too trusting of the surgeon."

She said the case also illustrates the lax regulatory process that allows too many medical devices to go on the market without rigorous reviews of safety and effectiveness.

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