Feb. 8 (Bloomberg) -- Johnson & Johnson’s DePuy unit president told a California surgeon months before 93,000 metal hip implants were recalled that sales would be halted, without explaining that the devices were increasingly failing, the doctor testified.
Craig Swenson told state court jurors in Los Angeles today that DePuy President David Floyd had lunch with him in La Jolla, California, in March 2010. Swenson had earlier testified he had implanted 200 ASR XL hips before Floyd’s visit.
“He informed me that they were going to discontinue sales of the ASR,” Swenson said. “He didn’t give me a reason why.”
Swenson testified at the first of 10,000 lawsuits over claims DePuy defectively designed the hips and failed to warn of the risks. At the time of the August 2010 recall, J&J said 12 percent of the devices failed in the U.K. within five years. An Australian registry showed the failure rate last year exceeded 40 percent. Analysts say the lawsuits may cost J&J billions of dollars.
Swenson, who resumed his testimony today after first appearing on Jan. 29, said he “pretty much stopped’ using the ASR because patients were experiencing pain and high levels of metal ions from wear on the cobalt and chromium devices. Patients claim in lawsuits that the ASR left them in pain or immobilized by joint dislocations, infections and bone fractures.
Floyd, who was president of DePuy from 2007 to March 2011, discussed Swenson’s ASR experiences, the doctor said. Floyd never mentioned that DePuy had received numerous complaints from surgeons or that the company had considered a redesign, according to Swenson.
‘‘He said they were going to stop supporting it,” Swenson said. “There was no part of the conversation that there was any significant problem or that patients needed any special care.”
In his testimony on Jan. 29, Swenson said Floyd visited eight San Diego surgeons who were heavy users of ASR hips. He said he had implanted more than 5,000 hip devices over three decades. Of 200 ASR devices he implanted, 38 percent failed, a far higher rate than any other device he has used, he testified.
Swenson testified in support of Loren Kransky, 65, a retired Montana prison guard. Kransky had an ASR hip implanted in December 2007 and removed in February 2012.
J&J, the world’s largest seller of health-care products, denies that it defectively designed the device or that it contributed to the health problems of Kransky. J&J is based in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
In an opening statement on Jan. 25, J&J attorney Alexander Calfo said that metal “staining” caused by debris from Kransky’s hip “did not damage Mr. Kransky’s tissue or create the need for the revision” surgery. Kransky attorney John Gomez asked about that statement.
“You’ve got to be kidding,” Swenson said. “The metal staining damaged his tissue. Those tissues are damaged. We take those tissues out because they are non-functional.”
During cross-examination by DePuy attorney Michael Zellers today, Swenson acknowledged the company’s artificial hips have a positive benefit in that they substantially reduced the risk of hip dislocation.
The doctor also conceded that debris caused by wear is a risk of any metal-on-metal hip implant, not just DePuy’s line of devices. The company’s lawyers are seeking to convince jurors that problems with Kransky’s artificial hip were routine and not caused by any defects in DePuy’s device.
The case is Kransky v. DePuy, BC456086, California Superior Court, Los Angeles County (Los Angeles).
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