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California Attorney General Kamala Harris brought suit against Johnson & Johnson on Tuesday, accusing the company of violating advertising laws in marketing its pelvic mesh devices. Pelvic mesh, also known as transvaginal mesh, is a net-like implant that's used to treat prolapse and incontinence in women. But the devices can also cause serious complications, including urinary dysfunction, constipation, loss of sexual function, and debilitating pain.
For years, Johnson & Johnson, along with its Ethicon unit, falsely marketed the device as safe and even superior to other treatments, despite being aware of significant evidence to the contrary, California's suit alleges.
Going After Pelvic Mesh Marketing
According to the lawsuit, J&J failed to sufficiently warn doctors and patients about the risks and complications associated with pelvic mesh. The company marketed the devices as a better option than non-mesh treatments for pelvic disorders, the suit alleges, despite knowing that this wasn't the case. "Johnson & Johnson put millions of women at risk of severe health problems by failing to provide critical information to doctors and patients about its surgical mesh products," Harris announced in a statement.
Johnson & Johnson sold more than 787,000 pelvic mesh devices in the U.S. between 2008 and 2014, 42,000 of which were sold in California, according to the AG. Prior to filing suit, California had lead a multi-state investigation into the products, which ended expanding to include 46 states and the District of Columbia.
J&J, for its part, said California's action was "unjustified." "The evidence will show that Ethicon acted appropriately and responsibly in the marketing of our pelvic mesh products," the company claimed.
California, Washington, and 35,000 More
California isn't alone in bringing action against the company over its pelvic mesh devices. Washington State also announced Tuesday that it was suing J&J, in an action that parallel's California's.
"For many victims, their health and their quality of life were forever changed as a result of this deception," Washington's Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a press conference. "Sitting upright, lying on their side, walking all became incredibly painful. ... These women were robbed of their ability to live and work in the way they once did."
And the state actions are just one of many suits facing J&J and other pelvic mesh makers, such as Boston Scientific and Endo International. Endo announced in 2014 that it would pay $830 million to settle over 20,000 personal injury claims. Johnson & Johnson is currently facing more than 35,000 private lawsuits.