Warning Signs No. 2: Metal-on-Metal Hips,
Lung Cancer Death Rates, Ecigarette and Food Safety

It’s a new year and here’s another segment on warning signs. I am glad to see that this month, the hazards of metal-on-metal hips, covered in the first warning signs issue, are being examined.

40% Failure Rate of Johnson and Johnson’s Metal-on-Metal Hip

People contemplating a joint replacement should take a close look at this story. Barry Meier, reporter at the New York Times, reported on Jan. 22. that Johnson & Johnson , knew about its Articular Surface Replacement hip, or A.S.R.’s 40% failure rate within 5 years of surgery.

“The episode represents one of the biggest medical device failures in recent decades and the forthcoming trial is expected to shed light on what officials of Johnson & Johnson’s DePuy Orthopaedics division knew about the device’s problem before its recall and the actions they took or did not take.” Barry Meier, NYT, Jan. 22, 2013. 

Thousands of patients have brought lawsuits concerning the A.S.R. A trial begins today in California Superior Court in Los Angeles. Will this be the straw that breaks the camel’s back in terms of inadequate patient protection in medical device regulation? Will we see a more vigilant FDA?

Lung Cancer Death Rates for Women On Par with Men’s

You may be thrilled, as I was, earlier this week, when President Obama called attention to our nation being inclusive. One milestone that I wish women were spared is their achieving near parity with men in their risk for lung cancer death:

A study in the Jan. 24 New England Journal of Medicine, reveals that as women’s smoking habits have become more like men’s, namely starting to smoke at a younger age and smoking more cigarettes each day, their risk of lung cancer death has risen to the same as men. Removal of the stigma against smoking for women began after World War II, and women in their fifties and older, who smoked are part of this surge.

A related study, by Prabhat Jha at the Center for Global Health Research in Toronto, underscores the value of quitting in helping prevent early smoking-related deaths. Using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) data, researchers report  threefold greater risk for lung cancer death in current smokers, compared with people who never smoked.

Questionable Oversight of the Electronic (e)cigarette Business.

You can see the advertising all over: electronic cigarettes are marketed as a safer non-tobacco alternative. Is the data in? I have my doubts.

insert on electronic cigarette safety

Thanks @Dirk57 at The Addiction Inbox, who flags the lack of regulation in the e-cigarette business, in a post this week. Big tobacco is moving into this lucrative business quickly, Dirk points out. But do we have reason to trust industry marketing. Additionally, safety data has been inconsistent. Long-term safety data concerning e-cigarettes is unclear.  Dirk raises some important questions.

FDA Belatedly Ramps Up Food Safety

Last fall, Center for Science in the Public Interest made a compelling case for the FDA failing to put food safety preventive programs in place. I called attention to it here. Could some of the produce safety outbreaks (e.g. cantaloupe, peanut butter) we heard about last year been averted? Probably.

Finally, FDA is requiring the food industry to perform a hazard analysis of their facilities and put control programs in place to prevent food pathogens from getting into produce and other parts of the food supply.

Still wanting: regulations for food produced in other countries, warns CSPI.

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