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Johnson & Johnson settles lawsuit with Washington state over pelvic mesh implants

Adrian Florez

The health care giant Johnson & Johnson will pay nearly $10 million to Washington state to settle a lawsuit over the marketing of pelvic mesh implants. The mesh implants are designed to repair pelvic collapse that sometimes happens after a woman gives birth or has a hysterectomy. Johnson & Johnson and other companies that manufacture mesh implants have been sued by tens of thousands of patients, who claim lingering complications from the devices, including chronic pelvic pain, pain with sexual intercourse and ongoing urinary tract infections. Removing the mesh can be difficult, if not impossible, described as the equivalent to having chewing gum removed from your hair.

Washington state's lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson, filed in May 2016, was over misrepresentation of risks associated with the implants. Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said the company violated the state's Consumer Protection Act by not adequately warning patients and doctors of the risks.

In announcing the settlement, Ferguson said going forward the company will be required to spell out those risks. “Our resolution is sending a clear message, that you cannot sell medical devices in Washington state and fail to adequately disclose the risks associated with those products,” Ferguson said.

Mesh implants are designed to repair pelvic collapse that sometimes happens after a woman gives birth or has a hysterectomy.

At a news conference, Ferguson read a letter from Jean Giallombardo of Rochester, Washington, who said her life has been "a nightmare" since she had surgery in 2006. She wrote that the pelvic mesh implant has caused such pain and ongoing complications that she rarely leaves her house. "I was injured and my life was completely altered due to that surgery," she wrote.

Ferguson said the $9.9 million will go to affected consumers. However, due to privacy protections, the state doesn't know the names of women who've had mesh implants. So, the attorney general is urging anyone with an implant to contact his office.  He also encouraged them to contact an attorney and consider suing the company as an individual. He pointed out that the settlement reached by the state does not prevent individuals from filing personal injury claims.

As for banning the devices outright, Ferguson said that is beyond the reach of Washington’s Consumer Protection Act because pelvic mesh implants have been approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration.

Paula reports on groundbreaking legal decisions in Washington State and on trends in crime and law enforcement. She’s been at KNKX since 1989 and has covered the Law and Justice beat for the past 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.
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