Penelope Brown is a former gymnast who was used as a ‘poster lady’ to promote a hip implant system which was later recalled after allegations of serious faults. She describes how she feels guilty about her role in advertising the system as she prepares to have corrective surgery.
Articular Surface Replacement, or ASR, were only recalled in August 2010 despite growing evidence from at least 2006 that they were failing, requiring patients to have revision surgery, which unfortunately may be unable to rectify the full extent of the damage caused by the implant.
Penelope Brown, 51, who lives near Bath, was a sportswoman and former gymnast whose life had been turned upside down through osteoarthritis in both hips by her early forties. In constant pain and incapacitated she was desperate to return to what she describes as a “normal life”.
Ms Brown says: “I was advised to have the ASR resurfacing procedure rather than a total hip replacement on the basis that it would last much longer, be safer and reduce the likelihood of needing further surgery during my lifetime.”
In April 2004 Ms Brown underwent a ASR right hip resurfacing and was delighted with results in that she was pain free and regained her mobility, for her the ASR transformed her life so much so that she agreed to become DePuy's “poster lady”.
Ms Brown explains: “I was included in all the promotional literature and went on stage to give a live interview on my personal story as a patient and how the ASR had transformed my life. I was DePuy’s patient brand and my image was used extensively around the world over a four-year period between 2004 and 2008. I even counseled patients about having ASR components implanted.”
During 2009 Ms Brown started to experience groin pain, and by March 2011 could feel a clunking sensation when walking. The pain gradually got worse and she was eventually told in May 2011 that she would need revision surgery as a result of the premature wearing of the ASR component.
Ms Brown said: I couldn’t believe it. It seemed so ironic that having promoted the product I was now a victim of the ASR. I have been living with constant discomfort, I can’t sit or stand for long periods and my personal and professional life suffered greatly. I was a successful businesswoman at the top of my profession and never had any significant periods of time off work due to illness.”
“Since my revision operation on 20.9.2011 I have been bed-bound and unable to work. My life has been devastated and I not only feel let down personally but also feel guilty that I might have encouraged others to have the ASR implanted.”
“I instructed Leigh Day given they are product liability
specialists and have a history of successful claims against companies who have manufactured defective orthopaedic components. They have vast experience in dealing with group claims. I wanted a firm who understood fully the scientific issues and potential long term systemic issues that I may suffer with in the future.”
Bozena Michalowska and Michelle Victor are managing the ASR team which is leading the group action against DePuy International Ltd. The team is investigating the overall impact of the ASR and long term systemic issues that their clients may face in later life.
Bozena, a specialist product liability lawyer who has pursued successful litigation against manufacturers of defective hip components previously, said: “The worldwide recall of the ASR system should have occurred much sooner than 2010. There is reliable evidence that the system was failing much earlier, but despite attempts to discontinue the system quietly, we believe full details should have been given as soon as DePuy and parent company, Johnson & Johnson, were aware of the issues with ASR.”