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Johnson & Johnson misrepresented vaginal mesh with brutal side effects, WA says

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
KUOW Photo/Amy Radil
Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

Dawna Hankins had a partial hysterectomy in 2008.

Before surgery her doctor offered to put in a surgical mesh to help with minor incontinence. She agreed.

Hankins told reporters during a phone conference she experienced problems immediately that did not stop. “The pain, the inflammation, the itching, the urinary tract infections, continued for three years,” Hankins said.

Now State Attorney General Bob Ferguson says pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson, which created the mesh, has violated Washington’s Consumer Protection Act.

Ferguson wants the medical company to stop marketing its surgical mesh in Washington. He says it’s causing serious health problems — even years after the implant.

The company denies it.

But women like Hankins say the complications they’ve suffered are irreversible.

In 2011 she went to another doctor who told her the only way to fix it was to have the mesh removed. But doing that led to another series of complications.

“I had severe pain and was rushed to an emergency surgery to remove a twisted ovary,” she said. “During that surgery, there were complications and a week later I had a third surgery.”

Hankins would later learn that surgical meshes like hers can’t be completely removed.

The mesh is made of polypropylene and its weaves tend to trap bacteria that cause infections and complications. At least 12,000 have been sold in Washington.

The attorney general’s lawsuit alleges that for decades, Johnson & Johnson withheld information like this from doctors and consumers.

In a statement, the company says the allegations are unjustified, and that the company acted appropriately and responsibly in marketing its product.

Year started with KUOW: 1994