Johnson and Johnson may sell off troubled DePuy artificial hip company
Johnson & Johnson has won U.S. antitrust approval to buy Swiss medical device company Synthes Inc., but the deal hinges on Johnson & Johnson unloading its subsidiary DePuy Orthopaedics. Biomet Inc., makers of artificial joints and other orthopedic devices, has agreed to buy DePuy, a deal valued at $280 million in cash.
Biomet sees the purchase of artificial joint maker DePuy as a way to greatly expand its sports, extremities and trauma business.
DePuy made headlines over the past couple years when it issued a worldwide recall of its ASR XL Acetabulator hip replacement and hip resurfacing systems because of early failures and injuries associated with the devices. The hip implants were constructed with all metal parts and designed to be more durable than traditional implants, which are made with plastic or ceramic parts. But the devices are showing to be problematic.
Surgeons were puzzled about why it seemed the metal-on-metal construction was resulting in the devices dislocating, fracturing or loosening faster than traditional implants. Then they noticed what seemed to be aggravating the failures – tiny bits of metal falling into the joint space. The material seems to lead to inflammation and swelling, making the devices more likely to fail. The metal debris can also leech into patients’ bloodstream, resulting in a type of blood poisoning known as metallosis.
Treatment involves additional surgery to remove and replace the defective devices. Currently, DePuy is facing hundreds of lawsuits from people who say the company was aware its device was failing but continued to market it to doctors and patients.
The sale of DePuy will allow Johnson & Johnson to move forward with its purchase of Synthes, a move valued at $21 million. The two companies combined have about 70 percent of the market for plating systems used to surgically repair fractures in the radius bone nearest the wrist. These injuries often occur when someone falls and tries to catch himself with his hands, which can result in serious wrist fractures.