HUNTER residents have joined a class action against a manufacturer of hip replacements, alleging that defective devices caused health problems ranging from tissue damage to cobalt and chromium leaching into patients' blood.
About 400 people, including about 40 from the Hunter, are behind proceedings by Shine Lawyers against DePuy Orthopaedics, a Johnson & Johnson company.
Shine Lawyers special projects division manager Rebecca Jancauskas said clients from around Australia were involved, with particular concentrations in Queensland, South Australia and the Hunter.
Proceedings were filed in the Federal Court on Tuesday.
Ms Jancauskas said the product liability case alleged that the devices were defective and had led to a range of health concerns in clients.
"Everything from tissue necrosis to alarmingly high levels of cobalt and chromium, these metal particles wear away from the device and into the blood and cerebral fluid," she said.
Ms Jancauskas said common health problems included pain and inflammation, bone fractures, clicking and dislocations, tissue and muscle damage, and infection.
The devices concerned were the ASR Hip Resurfacing System and ASR XL Acetabular Hip System, implanted between 2003 and 2009.
DePuy issued a voluntary recall in August 2010.
But concerns were raised about defects in the product for several years, Ms Jancauskas said.
"What we allege in our proceeding that was filed in the Federal Court on Tuesday is that the manufacturer has had this knowledge in its possession for a number of years and that they should have withdrawn this product . . . much sooner," she said.
It was estimated 5000 Australians had the hips implanted, but not everyone had problems, Ms Jancauskas said.
The devices are estimated to have a 12 to 13 per cent failure rate.
The Newcastle Herald put several questions to DePuy representatives at Johnson & Johnson and received a statement in response.
"DePuy regrets the impact this recall has had on patients, their families and surgeons," the statement said.
"Our first priority is for the care and well-being of all ASR patients."
Patients were encouraged to contact the company for information and support.
As at September 30, DePuy was supporting more than 3500 ASR patients in Australia.
"We are committed to addressing reasonable and customary costs of testing and treatment for reasons related to the recall, including revision surgery if necessary," the statement said.