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Kentucky Attorney General Sues Johnson & Johnson Over Surgical Mesh

Beshear
J. Tyler Franklin
/
Andy Beshear

Kentucky’s attorney general is suing health care and pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson for allegedly failing to disclose the potential risks associated with one of its surgical products.

Beshear's office has filed a civil suit against the company and its medical supply unit, Ethicon for what it says was deceptive marketing of a vaginal mesh implant. The surgical mesh is a synthetic fabric used to treat common pelvic conditions experienced by women.

During a news conference Tuesday, Beshear said the company failed to disclose the potential risks and side effects associated with the product, including chronic pain and loss of urinary or sexual function.

“It’s chronic pain that they experience that prevents the most basic functions: using the restroom -- and we’re not talking about discomfort, we’re talking about serious, searing pain — sexual relations, difficulty sleeping, sitting, working, moving,” Beshear said.

He said more than 15,000 women in Kentucky have received a mesh implant and some have experienced severe complications.

“They were put at risk by a company that put their own profits over the quality of their potential patients’ lives," he said. "While this lawsuit doesn’t seek direct restitution for the individuals, it seeks to hold the company accountable.”

Ethicon has settled some of the thousands of lawsuits filed over the product nationwide. In an emailed statement, the company said Beshear's suit was unwarranted.

“The lawsuit against Ethicon and Johnson & Johnson is unjustified, and the company plans to vigorously defend itself against the allegations," spokesperson Samantha Lucas said in a statement. "The evidence will show that Ethicon acted appropriately and responsibly in the marketing of our pelvic mesh products. The use of implantable mesh is often the preferred option to treat certain female pelvic conditions, including pelvic organ prolapse and stress urinary incontinence, and is backed by years of clinical research."

Beshear said his suit seeks millions of dollars in civil penalties. He said women seeking individual restitution who don’t have representation should call his office.

Rick Howlett is host of WFPL's weekly talk show, "In Conversation." Email Rick at rhowlett@lpm.org.