Vaginal mesh banned in Australia following safety fears

Date: Dec 06, 2017

A controversial vaginal mesh has been banned after hundreds of women complained the products left them in severe pain, unable to have sex and battling infections.

Urogynaecological surgical mesh implants, which are used to prevent stress incontinence and support patients who have suffered pelvic organ prolapses, will now be removed from the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) reviewed various products and announced the ban last month (November 28).

“The TGA is of the belief that the benefits of using transvaginal mesh products in the treatment of pelvic organ prolapse do not outweigh the risks these products pose to patients,” the organisation said in a statement.

Manufacturer comes under fire

Johnson & Johnson manufactures the mesh and is currently facing class action lawsuits in several countries, including Australia.

More than 700 women are taking part in the Australian case, potentially leading to hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation if the plaintiffs are successful.

Nearly 60 per cent of women who have a mesh fitted said the treatment did not solve their original problem, according to figures from the Health Issues Centre.

Moreover, 41 per cent of patients did not feel they were adequately informed of the risks associated with transvaginal meshes, which could mean many women are eligible to pursue medical negligence claims.

Almost three-quarters (73 per cent) of respondents reported continued incontinence issues after surgery, while 58 per cent said they experience pain during intercourse.

Patients ‘vindicated’ after years of being ignored

Gai Thompson, who had a vaginal mesh fitted nearly a decade ago, told ABC News that the ban vindicates women who have suffered years of pain because of these operations.

She is one of the lead claimants in the class action against Johnson & Johnson.

“I don’t think people understand, [there’s not] one day from the time it’s been put in that we haven’t had pain – not one day,” Ms Thompson explained.

“For so many years, we’ve been told there’s nothing wrong with us, that symptoms are either in our head or it’s not because of the mesh,” she said.

Surgical mesh cases in Australia

It is not the first time this year that surgical mesh has been at the centre of a compensation claim.

A woman received $1 million in damages after the NSW Supreme Court ruled that medical practitioners were negligent while fitting a surgical mesh to help promote healing for an incisional hernia.

Justice Stephen Campbell claimed the procedure used during the operation was unsuitable for such a high-risk patient, resulting in an infection that caused significant disabilities.

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