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Morrisey sues Johnson & Johnson over pelvic mesh

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey briefs the press on his latest lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson. (Photo by Steven Allen Adams)

CHARLESTON — Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said Wednesday his office is going after one of the major manufacturers of pelvic mesh that has caused numerous health issues.

The Attorney General’s Office filed suit Wednesday in Monongalia County Circuit Court against Johnson & Johnson and subsidiaries Ethicon and Ethicon U.S., LLC.

Morrisey is accusing Johnson & Johnson of violating the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act by engaging “in unlawful, unfair and deceptive marketing practices” for its surgical mesh products.

“We filed a consumer protection lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson and also Ethicon accusing the companies of knowingly concealing the risks associated with the surgical mesh,” Morrisey said at a Wednesday morning press conference announcing the action.

“Our lawsuit alleges that J&J misrepresented the safety of these devices by concealing the possibility of serious and irreversible complications caused by this mesh,” Morrisey said. “Our complaint alleges J & J misrepresented the safety of its mesh to both doctors and patients in violation of West Virginia’s consumer protection laws.”

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, surgical mesh is used to provide additional support to weak or damaged tissues. The FDA ordered all manufacturers of surgical mesh meant for pelvic organ prolapse — a condition where the uterus, bladder or rectum become loose — to halt the sales as of April 16.

“Since the FDA has not received sufficient evidence to assure that the probable benefits of these devices outweigh their probable risks, the agency has concluded that these products do not have reasonable assurance of safety and effectiveness,” the FDA wrote in an order.

The Attorney General’s Office alleges that Johnson & Johnson and Ethicon violated state consumer protection laws by misrepresenting how effective surgical meth is, the risks associated with the product, and the safety history of mesh. The office also alleges that the companies did not disclose this information on promotional material or in conversations with doctors and patients.

“Through its actions, we believe that the company took away effectively the doctor’s ability to give sound advice and the woman’s ability to make an informed decision about whether to have a permanent mesh implant put into her body,” Morrisey said. “We believe that the company knew about many of these potential risks, but despite that they omitted the information. So, we’re filing this case today and we believe that the company needs to be held accountable under our consumer protection laws.”

West Virginia joins California and Washington State in going after Johnson & Johnson for pelvic mesh. California filed suit against Johnson & Johnson July 15. The state accused the company of deceptive practices involving 50,000 women who were treated with surgical mesh. In Washington State, a similar case was settled in April for $10 million.

“We are deeply concerned that the conduct involved today has deeply impacted many people’s lives,” Morrisey said. “My office is always going to take steps to ensure that we’re holding everyone accountable to our consumer protection laws. Today’s action is no different.”

Mindy Tinsley a spokeswoman for Ethicon, said they plan to defend themselves from Morrisey’s lawsuit.

“Ethicon’s pelvic mesh surgical devices have helped millions of women around the world — including in West Virginia — find relief from the often debilitating impact of stress urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse,” Tinsley said. “The Attorney General’s position is at odds with the views of leading doctors and medical groups, as well as the FDA. Ethicon acted appropriately and responsibly in the research, development and marketing of its pelvic mesh products, and the Company intends to defend vigorously against the claims asserted by the State.”

Steven Allen Adams can be reached at sadams@newsandsentinel.com.

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