J&J will abandon metal hip replacement sales

Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) has had enough with metal-on-metal and ceramic-on-metal hips, disclosing that it will leave those business lines entirely behind by the end of 2014.

Bloomberg reports that J&J says its decision doesn't stem from the 10,000 pending lawsuits the company faces regarding safety problems over its now-recalled ASR all metal hips. Rather, J&J told the news service that it is bailing from both product lines because of pending FDA regulations that will toughen the metal hip regulatory process, as well as plunging clinician use of the product class.

"There's really not a viable market for these bearing combinations anymore," J&J/DePuy spokeswoman Mindy Tinsley told Bloomberg (DePuy produces the company's replacement hips). Tinsley noted that metal-on-metal hip implant sales have plunged 90% since 2007 in both the U.S. and Europe.

And the company itself issued a statement on the matter, according to the article, noting that J&J's DePuy division is discontinuing both product lines because of the decline in usage, but also "proposed changes in the FDA regulation of the entire class of metal-on-metal products."

The thing is, safety problems relating to the company's ASR hips sparked a global recall, those 10,000-plus lawsuits we mentioned and helped increase regulatory scrutiny of every other competitor that makes all-metal implants that J&J cites. Still, while the market has plunged since 2007, hip implants and partial hip implants overall continue to be a (for now) stagnant but steady business, in large part because of a rising elderly population for whom hip implants can generally help.

J&J told Bloomberg it will stop selling metal liners in the Ultimate Metal-on-Metal Articulation and the Complete Ceramic-on-Metal Acetabular Hip System by the end of August. The company will gradually wind down the sale of related products through 2014, according to the story. But J&J, the world's biggest maker of healthcare products, says it will continue to sell its Pinnacle Acetabular Cup System, plus hip replacement components other than metal (think ceramic and medical-grade plastic).

- here's the Bloomberg story

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