Recently, a California judge ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay the state $343.99 million for violations of California unfair competition and false advertising laws.
After a nine-week trial, the judge found that J&J and its subsidiary Ethicon had failed to disclose known risks associated with its pelvic mesh product. The pelvic mesh was surgically implanted in women who were suffering certain types of urinary incontinence and organ prolapse.
Specifically, the judge ruled that J&J and Ethicon had engaged in 153,351 violations of the unfair competition law and 121,844 violations of false advertising law. Each violation resulted in a $1,250 penalty.
However, the state had been seeking $1 billion in penalties. By law, the judge could have awarded up to $2,500 per violation of the statutes.
In a 128-page order, the judge ruled that J&J had “taken active, willful measures for nearly 20 years to suppress information and conceal serious risk and complication information from physicians and patients.”
He also found that J&J knew about the serious complications many women experienced from the pelvic mesh implants, including:
- Lifelong, recurring risk of mesh erosion into organs
- Shrinkage of the tissues surrounding the implant
- Chronic pain
- Need for removal or revision surgery
- Other dysfunctions
“J&J marketing personnel made the decision not to publicize or share information with customers regarding techniques for TVT mesh removal because they believed it would be bad for business,” the judge wrote.
“Johnson & Johnson knew the dangers of its mesh products but put profits ahead of the health of millions of women. Today, we achieved justice for the women and families forever scarred by Johnson & Johnson’s dishonesty,” said California’s attorney general.
Ethicon has said that it will appeal the penalty. It estimates the appeals process could take up to three years.
On top of this suit by the state of California, over 35,000 personal injury lawsuits have been filed in relation to Johnson & Johnson pelvic mesh products. Additionally, the company settled claims by Washington state for $9.9 million and with a group of 42 other states for $117 million.
It is estimated that over 2 million women worldwide have had pelvic mesh products implanted.