Clock ticking on vaginal mesh lawsuits against J&J, others

Johnson & Johnson is among the many companies facing thousands of lawsuits over vaginal mesh implants.--Courtesy of Johnson & Johnson

Thousands of women have filed lawsuits claiming serious injury from vaginal mesh implants made by a bevy of big devicemakers, but a two-year statute of limitations in some states could keep that number from swelling further.

As the Boston Business Journal reports, pending suits against the likes of Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ), C.R. Bard ($BCR) and Boston Scientific ($BSX) largely stem from a 2011 FDA warning citing safety problems with vaginal meshes, including risks of organ damage and corrosion.

States have varying regulations on how soon after a warning a liability suit must be filed, but many impose a two-year statute of limitations, an attorney told the Journal, meaning the mounting litigation could taper off after this year.

While that could end up being a blessing for the devicemakers on the line, early verdicts indicate that the vaginal mesh safety saga will be costly either way.

Last month, Endo Health Solutions' ($ENDP) American Medical Systems unit agreed to pay $54.5 million to settle some of its pending vaginal mesh lawsuits, with thousands still waiting in the wings. J&J, in the first of more than 2,000 pending suits over Gynecare Prolift, was ordered to pay about $11.2 million to an injured patient, and Bard was forced to fork over $5.5 million in a similar suit last year. Boston Scientific has yet to stand before a jury in the roughly 6,000 vaginal mesh lawsuits on its docket.

More than 100,000 patients have filed suits over vaginal mesh injuries in total, claiming undo pain, incontinence, organ perforation and paralysis. The devices, once considered miracle treatments for urinary problems, reached the market through the FDA's less-rigorous 510(k) clearance process, and, in its warnings over mesh malfunctions, the agency has proposed redesignating the implants and requiring them to complete premarket approvals.

- read the Journal's story