FDA slow to take action on dangerous metal hip implants

Massachusetts victims who were forced into surgery to remove metal-on-metal hip replacements due to pain or other complications already believe what critics suspect. The federal government seems to have given the devices a fast-track approval without realizing the problems they might cause.

For decades, hip replacements were made of ceramic or plastic to treat patients with severe arthritis or other hip injuries. It was only in the last decade that metal-on-metal hip implants were released, with manufacturers claiming that the new devices were superior to those already on the market.

Today, an estimated 500,000 patients in the United States have metal-on-metal hip replacements. At least some authorities believe that the practice of using the metal replacements should end.

Officials at a United Kingdom registry for artificial joints say metal hips require replacement long before the 10- to 15-year estimated lifespan. In fact, 6 percent of patients with metal replacements needed new ones in less than five years. U.K. officials also recommend that people with the implants have yearly testing to detect if dangerous metal scrapings have entered the bloodstream.

However, United States officials have been slower to act, saying one alarming report does not provide enough data. Instead, the Food and Drug Administration has decided to conduct its own review, which could take years to complete.

What is clear is that from 2000 until last year, the FDA received more than 16,000 complaints about metal hip replacements. However, the FDA does not rely heavily on the reports because many are believed to be influenced by the media and very few came from doctors.

The next step, according to the FDA, is to get hip implant manufacturers to conduct follow-up testing on the products they make. Meanwhile, thousands of Americans who have been injured as a result of defective metal hip replacement have filed personal injury lawsuits against the manufacturers.

Source: Associated Press, “FDA probes safety issues with metal hip implants,” Matthew Perrone, June 26, 2012