Closing arguments in DePuy ASR lawsuit

DePuy ASR metal-on-metal hip implants

Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) ignored serious problems with its DePuy ASR metal-on-metal hip implant in a game of "Russian roulette" the company played with patients’ safety, a plaintiff’s lawyer in a high-profile personal injury lawsuit said during the case’s closing arguments yesterday.

New Brunswick, N.J.-based J&J "knew this hip was defective long before [plaintiff Loren] Kransky got it," Brian Panish told the jury, according to the LA Times. "They wanted to play Russian roulette with patients. This defendant didn’t care about patient safety."

Johnson & Johnson attorney Michael Zellers countered that Kransky’s underlying medical conditions – including diabetes, kidney cancer and a hip infection – were the cause of the problems he tried to blame on the ASR implant.

"The evidence is clear," Zellers said, according to the newspaper. "Mr. Kransky’s injuries were not caused by a defect in the ASR XL hip or any conduct of DePuy."

Johnson & Johnson pulled the DePuy ASR device in 2010 on reports of an abnormally high number of revision surgeries, later revealing that the recall cost it $271 million during the 1st quarter last year. An internal company study found that 1 in 3 metal hips could fail in less than 5 years, according to testimony in the Kransky case unveiled in January.

And regulators in the U.S. have launched a probe into possible marketing violations for the ASR hip.

"The government is investigating whether any person or entity submitted or caused to be submitted false claims or false statements affecting federal health care programs in connection with the marketing and use of the ASR XL Hip device," J&J reported in a regulatory filing earlier this week.

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