Artificial hips have made a dramatic improvement in the life of patients with fractures or severe arthritis of hips. The standard surgery consists of putting a metal hip ball inside a polymer (plastic) socket. About ten years back medical device and drug companies came out with new and improved versions. These artificial hips consist of metal ball inside a metallic socket. The new devices were quickly approved without adequate long term studies.
The New York Times reported today that the new joints are failing in a large number of patients. The results are devastating for the patients. Replacement of an artificial joint is not easy. The new prosthesis has no bones to hold on to. Often the patient is left without working hip joints. There are thousands of lawsuits pending. There are an estimated 500,000 patients with these implants in USA alone. The worldwide impact of this disaster is anyone’s guess.
We as a society have to come to term with the fact that new drugs and devices are often not beneficial and in a several cases worse than the old ones. The FDA does not compare new drugs to old ones. The FDA is satisfied if the new drug is better than placebo. When it comes to artificial joints, we do not know what criteria were used by the FDA to approve this metal on metal joints. Whatever criteria were used they did not involve any long term safety and efficacy studies.
To read the New York Time article click on the link below.