Women to launch landmark group action over mesh implants

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Jul 25, 2017
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The women say that the implants used to treat pelvic organ prolapse have caused them chronic pain

Rui Vieira/PA

Thousands of women who allege that they have suffered life-changing complications from surgical mesh implants are to bring one of the first large-scale group actions under recent legislation.

In a case that lawyers think could result in hundreds of millions of pounds in damages, the claimants allege that they have been caused chronic pain, often preventing them from undertaking everyday activities including walking and running. According to the group’s lawyers, some have reported severe and constant abdominal and vaginal pain, perforated bladders and no longer being able to have sex.

Surgical mesh implants – which are manufactured by Johnson & Johnson, the US-based multinational corporation – are used to treat pelvic organ prolapse or incontinence, often after childbirth. The plastic meshes are made of polypropylene, which can also be found in a number of drinks bottles.

Lawyers acting for the English claimants say that similar actions against Johnson & Johnson have taken place in Scotland, the US and Australia. The English litigation is being supported by the action group Sling the Mesh, which represents about 2,000 women and families.

Lawyers claim that while the meshes are approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence in the UK, “their safety has become a significant cause for concern”. Wedlake Bell, the London law firm acting for the claimants, points to a report from the US Food and Drug Administration that it claims “stated that once the mesh was implanted, it was very difficult – sometimes impossible – to remove”. The lawyers said that the UK government suspended use of the mesh in 2014 in Scotland.

David Golten, a partner at Wedlake Bell, confirmed that his firm was acting for more than 200 potential claimants. Other law firms involved include Thompsons, Irwin Mitchell and Taylor & Emmet. Golten said that the claimants had not yet issued proceedings and that the law firms had to co-ordinate their actions before doing so.

Johnson & Johnson did not respond to requests for comment.

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