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Washington State Sues Johnson & Johnson Over Marketing Of Vaginal Mesh Implants
Vaginal mesh implants like these are sometimes used to repair pelvic collapse in women.

Washington state is suing Johnson & Johnson over its marketing of vaginal mesh implants. It’s estimated that 12,000 women in the state have the implants.  Washington filed a consumer protection lawsuitin King County Superior Court on Tuesday.The implants were designed to repair pelvic collapse in women, something that can happen after childbirth or a hysterectomy. Washington is charging the company with failing to inform consumers and doctors about the risks associated with the product for more than a decade.

At a news conference in the offices of the Washington Attorney General, Donna Hankins stood before reporters and talked about her experiences. She says it began in 2008 when a doctor convinced her a Johnson & Johnson mesh implant could control the urinary leakage she was having.

“I was not told that there would be chronic urinary tract infections. I was not told that I would have long-term pelvic pain and I was not told that after the mesh is put in, it becomes part of my body.”  Hankins said.

Hankins says the pain associated with the device is far worse than the problem of incontinence it was meant to solve.

Over the past few years, Johnson & Johnson has settled with thousands of individual patients over problems with the devices and more suits are set to go to trial. Other manufacturers of mesh have also faced lawsuits.

What Washington state is suing over, according to Assistant Attorney General Lisa Erwin, is misleading marketing by the company about the risks associated with the mesh, including the risk of infection.

“The company knew that putting polypropylene in the vaginal canal, because you drag it through the vaginal canal, it cannot be cleansed. Those risks were not disclosed to physicians nor were they disclosed to consumers," Erwin said.

California has also filed a consumer protection lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson over marketing of the implants. In a statement to Associated Press, Johnson & Johnson said the evidence will show the company acted "appropriately and responsibly" in its marketing of vaginal mesh implants.

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.