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Hip Replacement Company Sued

A class action suit has been filed on behalf of more than 20 recipients of Sulzer Orthopedics artificial hips, seeking damages from the company for making dangerous and defective hip implants.

Attorney Robert Bonsignore of Medford, Mass., who filed the suit Wednesday in a Middlesex court, said the hip replacements have been implanted into about 20,000 patients nationwide.

"They've admitted to a number of problems, including leg pain, an inability to walk on the leg and infection," Bonsignore said about the hips produced by Sulzer Medica, a Swiss drug maker.

A spokeswoman for Sulzer Orthopedics didn't immediately return a message seeking comment Thursday morning.

Bonsignore said a lubricant used in the manufacture of the hips can cause infection or a loosening of the joint itself.

Sulzer said its U.S. subsidiary, Sulzer Orthopedics, voluntarily recalled shells for its hip implants because of potential loosening of the shells.

The recall applies to hip implants sold mostly in the United States after October 1999, with a few shipments dating back to July 1997.

The company said it tested its Inter-Op shells, and found that a "slight residue" of a lubricant was produced by the shell, causing the loosening.

Bonsignore said many of the patients don't know what kind of hip replacements they received.

"You have to find that out from your surgeon, but they're afraid to talk," he said.

Bonsignore is the lawyer for Michelle Kovarik, 37, of Hyannis, Mass., who said she continues to have pain after her hip operation last April at St. Luke's Medical Center in New Bedford, Mass.

"It feels like it's asleep, and has since, I had the surgery," said the mother of two teen-agers. "I still experience a burning pain all the way down from my hip. I can hardly work more than 20 hours a week."

In addition to Sulzer Orthopedics, the suit also names Sous New England, a subsidiary based in Needham, Mass.

A number of other suits have been filed in both federal and state court nationwide over the hip replacement.

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