The Dark Side of Progress: Three Medical Implants that Have Harmed Women

Mahek Mishra

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Medical implants stand as a revolutionary force in healthcare, offering innovative solutions to diverse health conditions and transforming the landscape of medical treatment.

Despite the strides made, not all implants have lived up to their promises, and a dark side of harm has emerged, particularly among women. Some implants designed with the intent to improve health have led to severe complications and adverse effects.

In this article, we’ll look into four medical implants that have brought harm to women, shedding light on the dark side of medical progress.

Essure Birth Control Implant

Once lauded as an innovative, non-surgical, and hormone-free contraceptive option for women, Essure experienced a rapid decline due to widespread reports of severe side effects.

Until Bayer ceased its sale in 2020, Essure stood as the sole nonsurgical permanent birth control option approved for women aged 21 to 45.

Marketed as a lasting solution with pliable coils inserted into the fallopian tubes to induce scar tissue, Essure failed to fulfill its promises. Instead, it resulted in chronic pelvic pain, device migration, and even perforation of the uterus and fallopian tubes for numerous women.

Since its debut in 2002, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has received numerous Essure side effect reports. These range from mild pelvic pain to fatalities, totaling 67,643 medical device reports by March 2022, as reported by Drugwatch.

The FDA responded decisively by implementing a black box warning in 2016. In 2018, they further imposed restrictions on Essure’s sale, ultimately leading to its discontinuation by Bayer in 2020. Subsequently, on August 20, 2020, the company disclosed a $1.6 billion settlement to resolve nearly all Essure litigation in the United States.

This tumultuous journey, marked by numerous reported side effects and subsequent legal actions against Bayer, highlights the urgent need for rigorous regulatory oversight. Transparent communication and accountability in the development and marketing of medical implants are crucial to safeguard the well-being of patients.

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Transvaginal Mesh

Transvaginal mesh implants were designed to treat pelvic organ prolapse and stress urinary incontinence in women. Unfortunately, these devices led to numerous complications.

TorHoerman Law reports that numerous women have recounted enduring significant mental and physical pain and suffering post-implantation. Meshes were reported to erode, misplace, or protrude, resulting in complications such as pain during intercourse, bleeding, and, in severe cases, fatal infections like sepsis.

According to a report in the World Journal of Urology, a woman even died of sepsis attributed to recurrent urinary tract infections.

Moreover, permanent injuries and deformities necessitating corrective surgeries were reported, leading to substantial financial losses for many due to medical expenses and lost wages.

In response to the adverse effects of transvaginal mesh, affected individuals sought recourse through legal channels. They initiated thousands of lawsuits, collectively known as the vaginal mesh lawsuit, against manufacturers.

These legal actions alleged negligence, breaches of warranty, and design and manufacturing defects related to the implicated surgical meshes. Moreover, the lawsuits underscored concerns about deceptive marketing practices employed in the promotion of these medical devices to the public.

Forbes reported that the majority of these lawsuits were consolidated into seven federal multidistrict litigation cases against major manufacturers. As of July 2022, around 95% of these cases have been resolved or dismissed, leading to a $525 million total payout by the companies.

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Breast Implants

Breast implants are commonly employed for cosmetic surgery and post-mastectomy reconstructive purposes. However, specific types, particularly those featuring textured surfaces, have been associated with an increased risk of a rare cancer.

According to Yale Medicine, the FDA is currently aware of fewer than 20 cases of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). Additionally, there are fewer than 30 cases of various lymphomas found in the capsule. This capsule is the fibrous scar tissue forming around the implant to secure it in place.

This is not the first instance of the FDA expressing concerns regarding breast implants and cancer. In 2019, the agency issued a recall for a textured surface implant called BIOCELL, manufactured by Allergan.

The recall was prompted by reports of 573 cases of cancer and 33 deaths globally. These cases were attributed to a rare lymphoma, distinct from the recent cases, associated with these breast implants.

Referred to as breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL), this cancer is a rare T-cell type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It is unrelated to breast cancer but rather identified as a cancer of the immune system.

This development raised health concerns among women who underwent breast reconstruction after mastectomy or cosmetic breast augmentation.

In conclusion, medical implants have undoubtedly improved the lives of countless individuals. However, it is crucial to recognize the dark side of progress and acknowledge the harm that certain devices, particularly among women, have caused.

Vigilance, research, and transparent communication between patients and healthcare providers are essential for ensuring the safety and efficacy of future medical implants.