hip implant X-Ray [illustrative]_390.
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
The Health Ministry is looking into reports from abroad about hundreds of
thousands of hip implants carried out around the world – including some in
Israel – that the BMJ (British Medical Journal ) and the BBC said were defective
and leaked toxic metal into the bloodstream.
The ministry learned of the
then-embargoed article this week from The Jerusalem Post and started questioning
its officials in charge of approving medical technologies, as well as the Israel
Orthopedic Society. Called “metal-onmetal” implants, hip replacements by Johnson
& Johnson of the ASR type were not allowed to be marketed over a year ago in
Israel due to suspected complications.
Now, following an intensive
investigation, the BMJ and BBC have implicated a different type, called Pinnacle
and manufactured by Depuy for Johnson & Johnson, in leaching toxic metal
into patients’ blood.
The Pinnacle implant has not yet been recalled
anywhere in the world.
The ministry initially stated that it did not
believe many of the models in question were in use in Israel, but it did not
have figures. It contracted the Israel Orthopedic Society to look into the
matter and find out how widely these implants were used here, and whether their
conclusions matched the British researchers’. It also asked the Israeli agent
for Johnson & Johnson to provide more information.
The ministry said
it was in contact with experts abroad to find out the reactions in other
countries and whether the concerns were significant for Israelis.
British investigative journalists, who also wrote a BMJ editorial on the subject
this week, said the hip implants may affect more people than the recent affair
of PIP-tainted breast implants. Hip implants, like breast implants, do not have
to pass any clinical trials before they are put into patients, they
The investigation reported how cobalt and chromium ions can seep
into the tissues of patients with metal-onmetal implants, causing local
reactions that may destroy muscle and bone and leaving some patients with
“Studies have also shown that metal ions can leach
into the bloodstream, spreading to the lymph nodes, spleen, liver and kidneys,
before leaving the body as urine. There are also concerns about damage to
chromosomes, leading to genetic changes,” the investigators
Michael Carome, deputy director of the UK public Citizen’s Health
Research Group, called the situation “one very large uncontrolled experiment
exposing millions of patients to an unknown risk.
We will only find out
about the safety of these devices after large numbers of people have already
BMJ editor Dr. Fiona Godlee wrote that “hip replacements
are one of the great successes of modern medicine. But a combination of
inadequate regulation and untrammelled commercialism has caused actual and
potential harm for large numbers of patients around the world. They should have
known about the risks, as the manufacturers and regulators did, but they were
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