In the first of 10,000 lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson (J&J) for their defective design of metal-on-metal hip implant devices, lawyers argue that J&J’s DePuy unit knew about defects associated with their DePuy ASR hip and deliberately hid them from doctors.

The plaintiff’s lawyers claim the metal components grind together and shed cobalt and chromium debris into the bloodstream. The first witness and leader of a failure mode and effect analysis (FMEA) of the ASR said that J&J’s DePuy unit never told surgeons of the implant’s high failure risk and that subsequent revision surgeries were needed at a rate eight times higher than that of the Pinnacle, the company’s other metal hip device.

The company recalled the ASR after U.K. data show a 12 percent failure rate in patients after five years. J&J internal documents show that 37 percent of ASR implants fail after 4.6 years, a Bloomberg article explains. Despite the staggering numbers, a May 2008 email from DePuy’s head of U.S. marketing said, “We will ultimately need a cup redesign but the short-term action is to manage perceptions.”

Patients with metal-on-metal hip implants should contact a physician as soon as they suspect symptoms of a defective hip. Delaying treatment can potentially lead to metal poisoning and more tissue damage.

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