Hip 'revision surgery' bill for patients could be €100m
SENIOR executives from DePuy, the American hip replacement manufacturer, have travelled to Ireland to meet health officials in a bid to assess the scale of the potential legal fallout in Ireland of its global product recall.
The UK-based officials have also met with lawyers here in recent weeks as hundreds of Irish patients seek legal advice.
Some are considering suing DePuy as well as their orthopaedic surgeons; the hospitals where they underwent surgery; and the State, in the wake of last month's voluntary worldwide recall of DePuy's ASR hip-resurfacing system and its ASR hip Acetabular system.
It is feared that if all 3,500 units are to be replaced via corrective surgery, the bill for "revision" surgery -- estimated to cost between €30,000 and €50,000 per operation -- could exceed €100m before the issues of compensation and legal costs are addressed. The Irish Independent has learned that Attorney General Paul Gallagher is monitoring the potential liability as a result of the product recall and a special meeting of the Health Service Executive's serious incident team will be held this morning to address a range of issues, including the threat of widespread litigation.
A total of 93,000 patients worldwide, including more than 3,500 patients in Ireland, were fitted with the two implants before DePuy Orthopaedics Inc, a subsidiary of pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson, stopped production last year.
Legal sources in Ireland say that DePuy will likely opt for a global solution to address the issue of compensation.
Last night, representatives of the company confirmed that a UK team had travelled to Ireland but said that the issue of litigation was "still evolving".
Patients have been advised not to rush into litigation.
Solicitor Dave Coleman, founding partner of Lavelle Coleman which specialises in multi-party litigation, said that the situation facing people who were fitted with recalled units was "serious", but said engagement rather than litigation was best at present.
"There should be full consultation between all of the parties involved to ensure that the least upset is caused," said Mr Coleman, whose product liability arm represents 60 recipients of the potentially defective hips.
David Moore, president of Irish Institute of Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgery, has said only a minority of patients who had the ASR implant would need further surgery.
Johnson & Johnson recorded worldwide sales of nearly $62bn (€48bn) in 2009, with its DePuy unit accounting for $5bn (€3.8bn). DePuy's Irish unit employs 600 people at its Ringaskiddy plant in Co Cork.
Unpublished data from the National Joint Registry of England and Wales showed that one in eight patients needed corrective surgery within five years, figures which suggest that more than 400 Irish patients could require corrective surgery. The Irish recall comes as alliances of American lawyers pursue claims on behalf of patients there. Lawsuits have been filed in Florida, San Francisco, New Jersey and California.
Problems with the device include groin pain, dislocation, fractures and infections.