Johnson & Johnson, one of the largest manufacturers of surgical mesh, has announced plans to stop selling the medical implants, as it faces hundreds of lawsuits from injured women and increasing oversight from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Surgical mesh is used to strengthen the pelvic wall in cases of pelvic organ prolapse (POP) and stress urinary incontinence (SUI). Last year, approximately 75,000 women had a transvaginal procedure using surgical mesh.
Johnson & Johnson disclosed it will phase out surgical mesh in a recent letter sent to New Jersey and West Virginia judges overseeing patient lawsuits against them. The company said it plans to discontinue four mesh products over the next three to nine months.
On July 13, 2011, the FDA issued a public safety advisory stating traditional POP repair with mesh has no advantage over traditional non-mesh repair. Between 2005 and 2010, more than 3,800 women had reported complications and injuries following transvaginal mesh surgery, according to the FDA.
Many more women have stepped forward since the FDA advisory, many of whom have suffered painful, long-term injuries. Some injuries cannot be corrected through surgery. Hundreds of women have filed lawsuits against the manufacturers, which include Johnson & Johnson and Boston Scientific.
In September 2011, an FDA panel heard arguments from advocacy groups, surgeons and consumer organizations. Many wanted to see a surgical mesh recall, others wanted the FDA to implement more oversight. Some sought a reclassification while others said the surgical mesh problem made another case for overhauling the 510(k) system, which allows manufacturers to sell new products without a new review so long as they are “substantially equivalent” to an already legally marketed device.
The FDA did not require a surgical mesh recall. But in January 2012, it ordered Johnson & Johnson and the other companies to conduct studies to track surgical mesh complication rates over time. Johnson & Johnson has been collecting data to comply, but said it expects the FDA will waive the requirement.
Complaints from transvaginal surgical included mesh erosion with in the body, bleeding, pain during sexual intercourse, organ perforation, vaginal scarring, muscular and emotional problems. While corrective surgery is an option, it is not always successful.
Some surgeons are now recommending women consider whether they really need POP surgery and if they do, request a procedure without mesh, according to a Consumer Reports article. Click here for a recent article.
- FDA Safety Communication: UPDATE on Serious Complications Associated with Transvaginal Placement of Surgical Mesh for Pelvic Organ Prolapse, July 13, 2011.
- What to Know If You Have Been Injured By Surgical Mesh or Transvaginal Mesh.
- Urogynecologic Surgical Mesh Implants, Food and Drug Administration