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Dispatches – ‘Under the Knife’ – investigation into potentially defective medical implants

Leigh Day clients interviewed by Channel 4.


13 May 2011

Channel 4 documentary series ‘Dispatches’* is featuring a revealing investigation into medical devices and implants. The medical device industry comes under scrutiny and the programme explores whether patient safety comes secondary to profits in the £200 billion per year industry. Serious questions are raised by patients and doctors alike regarding the extent of testing conducted on these components before they are released into the market.

In particular, the programme will look at the failure of metal-on-metal (MoM) hip replacement components and the considerable impact these failures have on patient’s lives.  It will also look at the Medtronic Sprint Fidelis 6949 defibrillator lead, which has been associated with an increased risk of fracture. The programme will feature interviews with Leigh Day clients Jennifer Carr, Penny Quigley and Shirley Matthews all of whom have been affected by failed hip implants, and Christopher Pitt, who suffered multiple frightening inappropriate shocks with the Medtronic 6949 Sprint Fidelis lead.

As the leading firm of solicitors in the ASR case, we are currently acting for over 280 clients who have undergone, or are awaiting, revision surgery as a result of previously receiving the DePuy ASR artificial hip system. On 1 November, the firm issued legal proceedings against DePuy International Ltd to obtain compensation on behalf of their clients for pain, suffering and financial loss due to the failure of the device necessitating early revision surgery.

In September 2010, The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency issued a recall notice recalling DePuy’s ASR hip artificial system due to a significant increase in rates of revision compared to other similar components. In March 2011, the British Orthopaedic Association published a paper suggesting that, astonishingly, the early failure rate for the ASR device could be as high as 49% after six years.

Following growing national concerns regarding metal-on-metal hip joints, North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust is recalling 450 patients who have had metal-on-metal hip replacements fitted. This is one of the biggest recalls of its kind in the region and it follows last year's recall by the Trust of 378 patients fitted with metal-on-metal hip joints.  

Our clients have concerns not only about rectifying their hip replacements, but their long term health.  Penny Quigley, 59, who was interviewed for the Dispatches documentary said:

“I had a DePuy Pinnacle hip replacement system fitted to my right hip in October 2007. Since then, I have had two revision operations in February 2009 and August 2010. I have read about the effects of the metal blood contamination and I am very worried about my future – I don’t know what effect this is all going to have on me. I am very concerned that these components are still being used and other people may be placed in a similar situation."

The main concern is that the component can create metal debris and deposits which can build up very early on in the implant’s life cycle often leading to significantly elevated levels of cobalt/chromium in the blood together with inflammation, damaged muscles and soft tissue. Patients are frequently left in a position whereby they have no option but to undergo painful revision surgery.

To date, we have received in excess of 500 enquiries from across the UK from individuals who have had difficulties with their metal-on-metal hip replacement. Of these enquiries, we have spoken to 60 patients who have received either DePuy Pinnacle hip components. Leigh Day is currently investigating whether or not these components may also be defective for the purposes of the Consumer Protection Act 1987.

If you or a member of your family has been affected by a DePuy ASR or DePuy Corail Pinnacle hip implant, please call Leanne Bailey on 020 7650 1311 to discuss your potential claim.

If you or a member of your family has been affected by a Medtronic Sprint Fidelis defibrillator lead (models 6930, 6931, 6948 or 6949), please call Jill Paterson on 020 7650 1219.

‘Dispatches– Under the Knife’ airs on Channel 4 on Monday 16th May at 8pm.

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