Expert Witness Says Hip Implant Harmless

expert witness

An expert witness in a trial over recalled hip implants was extensively cross-examined as to whether he had a bias in favor of the manufacturer of the medical devices, after he claimed that the implant was harmless.

Dennis Paustenbach said in the trial in Los Angeles that the patient, Loren Kransky, was not harmed by the chromium and cobalt debris from a metal hip implant. The trial could be the first of many over the implants made by Johnson & Johnson’s DePuy unit, reports Bloomberg.

Kransky, a retired prison guard, had testified earlier in the trial that metal debris from the implant was poisoning him. Bloomberg explains more about his claims:

He had a metal cup planted in his hip, and a ball placed atop his femur rotated in the cup. J&J’s lawyers claim the elevated levels of metal in Kransky’s body can be traced to conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, strokes and kidney cancer. They claim he has diseased blood vessels throughout his body.

The company recalled the implants in August 2010 after they reported that at least 12% failed, well beyond the acceptable level. Since the recall, thousands of patients who received the implants have filed suit, seeking compensation for harm caused by the products, reports an article from Levin & Perconti, a law firm. The lawsuits usually claim that the implants were defective and that the company failed to warm consumers of their dangers.

In cross examination from the plaintiff’s attorney, Paustenbach denied that Kransky was poisoned by the implant. Also, he said that he found no evidence of an increased cancer risk. He testified that the presence of cobalt is “not an issue to be concerned about at concentrations observed in patients with implants.” At the trial, jurors were shown a publication from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, which said that “elevated chromium and cobalt concentrations may indicate implant wear, but they are not indications of toxicity.”

The plaintiff’s attorney also attempted to depict Paustenbach as biased for industry by reading a list of dozens of multinational corporations for which the toxicologist conducted chemical research. The research, paid by the companies, was used to try to undermine concerns about exposure to carcinogens, such as asbestos and benzene.

The witness responded angrily when asked by the attorney if he was the “go-to guy for industry,” meaning that he was hired to testify to help manufacturers in cases like these. “That’s ridiculous,” he responded.

The trial is not complete. It is important to follow this first trial to see how it ends and what effect it may have on future cases, Levin & Perconti wrote.

Source: “J&J’s Toxicologist Says Metal From Recalled Hip Harmless,” Bloomberg, 2/22/13
Source: “Defense Expert Claims No Harm in DePuy Implant Trial,” Illinois Nursing Home Abuse Blog, 2/28/13
Image by Cliff.