In a class-action case against pharma giant Johnson & Johnson that got underway today over 700 Australian women argued that the company's vaginal mesh implants caused them excruciating pain, ravaged their bodies and, in certain cases, ruined their lives.
Patients across the US, UK and Canada had filed tens of thousands of lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson and other pelvic mesh manufacturers over the implants, which were used to treat urinary incontinence and repair pelvic organ prolapse, a condition often caused by childbirth in which organs shifted out of place.
According to the women, use of the mesh had caused them chronic and often debilitating pain, infections, loss of sexual function and incontinence.
In 2014, Irish medical device maker Endo International said it would pay $830 million to settle over 20,000 personal injury lawsuits related to its vaginal mesh implants.
The trial in Australia will last six months. The lawsuit argued that the US-based company was negligent for not properly warning doctors and patients about the risks associated with the devices.
The lawsuit also added the products were not fit for the purposes for which they were designed, and the testing prior to the sale of the devices was inadequate.
If the case was successful, it could see payouts totalling hundreds of millions of dollars to affected women.
According to barrister Tony Bannon SC, there had been a "tidal wave" of aggressive marketing to surgeons and patients that suggested implanting the mesh was a "quick and easy operation".
He told the court the "suffering of the applicants would demonstrate [the] true risks of the … mesh".
"These are risks none of the applicants would have run if they had been properly advised," he said.
He added each applicant continued to suffer significant, unbearable pain.
He cited an internal email from French doctor Bernard Jacquetin, who ran a clinical trial for the manufacturer.
Jacquetin allegedly wrote: "I wouldn't like my wife to undergo this procedure."