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October 17, 2019

AGs reach $116.9 million settlement with Johnson & Johnson, Ethicon

Surgical mesh devices caused serious complications for women

DES MOINES — Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller announced a multistate settlement along with 40 states and the District of Columbia requiring Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary Ethicon, Inc. to pay nearly $116.9 million for their deceptive marketing of transvaginal surgical mesh devices.

A multistate investigation found the companies violated state consumer protection laws by misrepresenting the safety and effectiveness of the devices and failing to sufficiently disclose risks associated with their use, according to a petition filed in Polk County District Court. Iowa will receive $1,884,129.41 under the settlement.

“For years, women have suffered debilitating symptoms and other serious problems after surgeons implanted these devices. The companies failed to adequately disclose the possible complications and risks,” Miller said.

Transvaginal surgical mesh is a synthetic material that is surgically implanted through the vagina to support the pelvic organs of women who suffer from stress urinary incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse. 

The multistate investigation found the companies misrepresented or failed to adequately disclose the products’ possible adverse effects, including the risk of chronic pain and inflammation, mesh erosion through the vagina, incontinence developing after surgery, painful sexual relations, and vaginal scarring.  Evidence shows the companies were aware of the possibility for serious medical complications but did not provide sufficient warnings to consumers or surgeons who implanted the devices.

Patients around the country have filed thousands of private lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson and other makers of transvaginal mesh. Many of the lawsuits have been consolidated into a multi-district litigation in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of West Virginia.

Under the settlement, Johnson & Johnson has agreed to pay $116.86 million to the 41 participating states and District of Columbia. The settlement also provides injunctive relief, requiring full disclosure of the device’s risks and accurate information on promotional material, in addition to the product’s “information for use” package inserts.

According to the consent judgment, the companies must:

  • Refrain from referring to the mesh as “FDA approved” when that is not the case;
  • Refrain from representing in promotions that risks associated with mesh can be eliminated with surgical experience or technique alone;
  • Ensure that product training provided to medical professionals covers the risks associated with the mesh;
  • Omit claims that surgical mesh stretches after implantation, that it remains soft after implantation, that foreign body reactions are transient and that foreign body reactions “may” occur (when in fact they will occur);
  • Disclose that mesh risks include: fistula formation, inflammation, as well as mesh extrusion, exposure and erosion into the vagina and other organs;
  • Disclose risks of tissue contraction, pain with intercourse, loss of sexual function, urge incontinence, de novo incontinence, infection following transvaginal implantation and vaginal scarring;
  • Disclose that risks include that revision surgeries may be necessary to treat complications, that revision surgeries may not resolve complications and that revision surgeries are also associated with a risk of adverse reactions.

Joining Iowa in this multistate settlement are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

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