J&J's internal docs say recalled hip was defective

A Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) executive testified that the company recalled its all-metal hip replacements because they didn't meet "clinical expectations," not because they were defective, but that doesn't quite jibe with internal documents.

In the second trial over the ASR hip implant, DePuy President Andrew Ekdahl explained that the company yanked the device off the market because the rates of repeat surgery were higher than it would like, Bloomberg reports. However, days before the recall, company officials signed a document that explained the cause as a "defective product that would affect product performance and/or could cause health problems," the news agency points out, and that contradicts J&J's party line.

As J&J faces more than 10,000 lawsuits over ASR, the word "defective" has become ever more important. The company maintains that it followed the rules, getting FDA clearance for a device it believed was safe and effective, but plaintiffs claim J&J knew all along that its device could lead to injury, infection and costly revision surgeries.

J&J's attorney asserted that reading the recall as an admission of defect "is absolutely absurd," Bloomberg reports.

But last week, in the first verdict of the ongoing litigation, a Los Angeles jury ruled that ASR was indeed defective, ordering J&J to pay out $8.3 million. Fortunately for the company, the jury opted against awarding additional punitive damages, but the drug and device giant might not be so lucky in the future, and ASR could end up costing J&J billions, all told.

The company has already spent nearly $1 billion on ASR legal costs since the 2010 recall, and last year J&J said it had increased its budget for litigation by an undisclosed sum to prepare for more costly suits.

At the same time, J&J is dealing with about 2,100 lawsuits over Gynecare Prolift, a discontinued vaginal mesh implant that plaintiffs say caused scarring, nerve damage and organ perforation. In the first Prolift verdict, issued last month, a New Jersey jury ordered the company to pay $11.2 million.

- read the Bloomberg news