280312 DURBAN surgeon, Dr Rob McLellan-Smith shows the DePuy ASR XL hip implant. Over 90 000 of the implants were recalled in 2010 by the company due to its failure in a high number of patients in the UK. Pictures: Colleen Dardagan

 Johannesburg - Over 170 South African claimants will sue hip replacement manufacturer DePuy in a British court for damages related to a recall of hip implants, their lawyers said on Wednesday.

“Our South African clients were unable to sue DePuy in South Africa, and therefore started proceedings in England instead,” said Sunelle van Heerden of medical malpractice attorneys CP van Zyl Inc.

This follows an application to an English court where DePuy's jurisdiction objection was dismissed, Van Heerden said in a statement.

This was a “key stage” in their action against the prosthesis manufacturer, an affiliate of the Johnson & Johnson corporation.

They intend seeking millions in damages, claiming to have suffered injuries as a result ofhip implants manufactured in England by DePuy - the DePuy ASR XL total hip replacement system and the DePuy ASR Hip Resurfacing System.

“The dismissal of DePuy’s jurisdiction objection means that the claims can now proceed to a trial at which it will be argued that the hip implants were unsafe and defective, such as to impose a legal obligation upon DePuy to compensate victims for their pain, suffering and financial losses,” Van Heerden said.

DePuy recalled the ASR products from the market in 2010 after receiving reports from England that new replacement operations had to be done sooner than anticipated.

The Sunday Telegraph in the United Kingdom reported that a British study is understood to have detected changes to cells in the bladders of more than one in five patients who were monitored after being given “metal-on-metal” hip replacements.

Design problems with metal-on-metal implants may cause the metal components to rub against each other and shed microscopic metal particles into the body, particularly chromium and cobalt, the Telegraph reported, raising concerns over slow poisoning.

The South African company was working with English barrister Hugh Preston QC in the group litigation.

Van Heerden asked other patients in similar circumstances that were not aware they had a case for compensation, to come forward.

DePuy said on its website it recalled the products in 2010, and created a worldwide reimbursement programme for recipients of the ASR hip replacements in question for testing, replacement and out-of-pocket expenses. It said 93 000 implants were sold worldwide.

“DePuy is committed to improving patients' lives, and the company regrets that the ASR Hip System did not perform as expected for some patients.

“Since the recall, DePuy has worked to provide patients and surgeons with the information and support they need,” spokesman Lorie Gawreluk said in a statement.

Other attempts at claiming damages had already taken place, and were in the pipeline.

In a statement on April 16 the company said in the first ASR Hip System case to go to trial, a jury in the California Superior Court, Los Angeles County, rejected the plaintiff’s claim that DePuy Orthopaedics failed to adequately warn of the risks associated with ASR XL. The jury did however find the ASR XL was defectively designed.

The jury rejected the plaintiff’s claim for punitive damages but awarded US8.3 million in damages.

As of December 30, 2012, in the United States there were approximately 10 750 plaintiffs with direct claims in pending lawsuits regarding the ASR XL Acetabular System, DePuy said.

The first case, as part of the multi-district litigation in the US, is scheduled for June 2013. - Sapa