State attorneys general sue J&J over allegedly deceptive vaginal mesh marketing

Ethicon's Gynecare TVT Obturator device--Courtesy of Ethicon

Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) has been wading through vaginal mesh litigation, sometimes to no avail. Now the company is facing pushback from Washington and California law officials who sued J&J over its allegedly faulty implants.

The Washington and California state attorneys general accused the New Jersey-based med tech giant of not telling patients and doctors about serious problems linked to the devices, including urinary dysfunction, loss of sexual function and severe pain, The Wall Street Journal reports.

"For many victims, their health and their quality of life were forever changed as a result of this deception. 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," Washington State AG Bob Ferguson said at a news conference, as quoted by the WSJ.

California's suit claims that J&J's Ethicon unit used false advertising and deceptive marketing for its vaginal mesh products. The company sold about 790,000 devices in the U.S. between 2008 and 2014, including more than 42,000 in California, California State AG Kamala Harris said in a statement seen by the WSJ.

The suit in Washington alleges that J&J violated the state's consumer protection law by selling 12,000 devices but never telling patients that the mesh can erode and cause complications. The state is seeking millions of dollars in penalties, according to the WSJ story.

J&J is not owning up to any wrongdoing. "The evidence will show that Ethicon acted appropriately and responsibly in the marketing of our pelvic mesh products," the company told the newspaper in an emailed statement. J&J is "concerned that the attorney general's decision to file its lawsuit will keep women from obtaining treatment for the often-debilitating symptoms of stress urinary incontinence," it said.

Meanwhile, J&J is facing upwards of 35,000 lawsuits over its vaginal mesh products. Earlier this year, the company said that it would shell out more than $120 million to settle thousands of suits from women who claim that J&J's vaginal mesh implants caused them pain and injury. The move marked the first time J&J agreed to a settlement, but the word is still out on whether J&J will agree to resolve more suits.

"From time to time we have appropriately agreed to resolve some cases. We will not discuss the terms, nor discuss our ongoing litigation strategy," J&J spokesman Ernie Knewitz said at the time.

- read the WSJ story (sub. req.)