In a December 2 court filing in federal court in Charleston, West Virginia, lawyers for women suing Johnson & Johnson over its transvaginal mesh implants contend that the company destroyed or misplaced thousands of documents it had been ordered to preserve.
J&J’s Ethicon unit, maker of the Gynecare Prolift implant, lost or disposed of potentially hundreds of thousands of documents in the last decade although they were supposed to be preserved, Bloomberg News reports. As a result, the attorneys say, there are gaps in the story and the company should not “benefit from the gaps in plaintiffs’ story that defendant created.”
The first federal trial over the vaginal-mesh devices is scheduled for February 10, 2014 in federal court in Charleston, West Virginia. Earlier this year, a state court jury in New Jersey awarded more than $11 million in damages to a woman who said the Prolift implant caused her chronic pain, according to Bloomberg News.
More than 30,000 vaginal-mesh cases have been consolidated before U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin in Charleston for pretrial information exchanges. Goodwin will preside over the cases chosen for trial as bellwether cases whose outcomes may indicate trends in the litigation and could serve as the basis for negotiating a settlement. Suits have been filed against Johnson & Johnson, C.R. Bard, based in Murray Hill, New Jersey; Endo Health Solutions Inc. of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania; and Boston Scientific Corp., based in Natick, Massachusetts.
In court filings, women who received mesh implants claim the implants eroded over time, causing pain, injuries, and infections. Many of them have undergone additional surgery to remove the mesh and repair organ damage, and some of their injuries are permanent. In 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ordered 31 manufacturers of vaginal-mesh implants to study rates of organ damage and complications linked to the devices. More than 70,000 mesh devices were implanted in the U.S. in 2010, to treat pelvic organ prolapse (POP) and stress urinary incontinence (SUI) by creating support for internal organs, according to Bloomberg News.
Last year, J&J decided to stop selling some vaginal-mesh implants, though in court filings the company asserts that the Prolift devices are safe and effective and that the company gave patients adequate warning of the risks.