Drug and medical device maker Johnson & Johnson, its subsidiary Ethicon, and several other manufacturers once sold transvaginal pelvic mesh implants as a treatment for a medical condition called organ prolapse. Unfortunately, many women who received the implants suffered from intense pain and bleeding. Some needed follow-up surgery to remove the implants, and that exposed them to additional risk and harm.
Transvaginal pelvic mesh implants have been the subject of approximately $8 billion in personal injury verdicts and settlements in the U.S. alone. Johnson & Johnson stopped selling these implants in 2012 for use in organ prolapse, but it and other companies continue to sell mesh implants to treat urinary incontinence in women.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration only halted the use of the implants for organ prolapse this year.
Now, Johnson & Johnson has agreed to settle 41 states’ claims that it marketed the implants deceptively. The settlement, worth $117 million, also includes the District of Columbia. It does not, however, involve California, which is seeking as much as $800 million from the company, claiming that it misled women and doctors about the risks and benefits of pelvic mesh implants, including those used to treat incontinence.
Johnson & Johnson said in a statement that neither it nor its subsidiary Ethicon admits any liability or misconduct.
Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson is facing litigation pressure on several fronts. It has been linked to the opioid epidemic, including being ordered to pay $465 million to the state of Oklahoma. A court ruled that the company intentionally underestimated the risks and overestimated the benefits of opioid drugs, creating a public nuisance.
Just last week, a Pennsylvania jury awarded $8 billion in punitive damages to a man who was prescribed a drug called Risperdal as a youth without being told of its risk. The drug caused the young man to grow breasts. Approximately 10,000 other Risperdal users have sued for similar reasons.
Johnson & Johnson has also been sued over its baby powder and Shower-to-Shower products, which are made with talcum powder. Numerous lawsuits claim that the talc in these products was tainted with asbestos and caused mesothelioma and ovarian cancer when used for routine hygiene. According to the New York Times, internal company documents show that Johnson & Johnson knew that some of its talc products contained asbestos but hid that fact from the public and regulators.
On Friday, the company announced it was recalling just one lot of Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder after the FDA discovered minute levels of asbestos in one bottle of the product.