Cobalt Chromium Toxicity

Trial is Underway Regarding Johnson & Johnson’s DePuy Pinnacle


Tuesday, September 2, 2014 marked the first bellwether trial regarding the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) DePuy Pinnacle metal on metal hip implant. As of yet, the device is not recalled but gained notoriety over several reports of side effects from design flaws and metal poisoning.

The DePuy Pinnacle, similar to its recalled counterpart, DePuy ASR, places patients at significant risk for elevated levels of cobalt and chromium in their blood. Additional problems with the DePuy Pinnacle may include infection secondary to metallosis, pseudotumors, severe hip pain, and other life threatening complications. An internal memo via DePuy highlights concern from Dr. Thomas Schmalzried who foreshadowed the release of metal debris into the bloodstream.

Kathleen Herlihy-Paoli, a Montana resident, the first of the bellwether trials, claims the DePuy hips leeched cobalt and chromium into her blood stream precipitating an infection. Consequently, the pain from infection required removal of the devices. Mark Lanier, Herlihy-Paoli’s attorney, suggests J&J knew of the metallosis poisoning from the hips as early as 2001.

Voir Dire (jury selection) occurred on September 2. The trial will proceed with a nine member jury composed of five women and four men, including an attorney and a PhD pharmacist. Subsequently, on Wednesday, September 3, opening statements occupied the morning. In the afternoon, Andrew Ekdahl, ex- DePuy President, took the stand. He was head of marketing during key periods in question. Currently, he is chairman of DePuy Synthes unit’s global orthopedic business. Ekdahl implies this is a promotion from his previous position. His testimony monopolized all of Wednesday afternoon as well as Thursday, September 4. Trial is not held on Fridays.

On Monday, September 8th the parties are scheduled to question Polly Cary, Product Director of Marketing for DePuy, and Dr. John Abramson, DePuy’s Healthcare Policy/Information Integrity expert.

* The case is Herlihy-Paoli v. DePuy Orthopaedics Inc., 12- cv-3590, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas (Dallas).

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