Johnson & Johnson lose appeal over pelvic mesh devices that left women with debilitating pain and medical complications

Thousands of women left with debilitating pain from faulty pelvic mesh implants are in line for a payout after the Federal Court dismissed an appeal brought by Johnson & Johnson.The pharmaceutical giant was in 2020 ordered to pay $2.6 million in damages to three women who suffered excruciating pain and a host of other medical complications after receiving the mesh.
The ruling, which paved the way for other class action members to be compensated, came after a lengthy trial over nine medical devices used to treat women for urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.
Lead applicants Kathryn Gill, Ann Sanders and Diane Dawson testified of excruciating pain that had taken over their lives, preventing them from being active and having sex, and caused immense emotional anguish after their mesh implants went badly wrong.
Mrs Dawson experienced “excruciating pain across her buttocks, pain deep inside her vagina, and pain that radiated down her legs” after the mesh eroded, while Mrs Sanders described it as feeling like “a blade in her vagina”.
Federal Court Justice Anna Katzmann found Johnson & Johnson and subsidiaries had acted negligently and should compensate Mrs Gill, Mrs Sanders and Mrs Dawson.
She ruled Johnson & Johnson gave surgeons “inadequate and, in some respects, misleading” instructions on how to use the mesh that obfuscated the risks of complications and infection.
She found the manufacturers, Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Ethicon, failed to clinically evaluate the devices after they started to be used and had a “flawed” complaints review system.
Johnson & Johnson launched an appeal, but Justices Jayne Jagot, Michael Lee and Bernard Murphy upheld Justice Katzmann’s ruling on Friday morning.
Class action member Peta Bennet said her vaginal tape implant in 2004 had “destroyed her life”.
“The TVT failure has impacted my life terribly. I have bowel incontinence, severe pain in my groin and left leg, which affects my walking ability and also other physical actions,” she said.
“My marriage has dissolved, I am unable to live my life as I used to playing hockey or softball, jogging or just generally trying to keep fit. I eventually put on weight and doctors recommended weight loss surgery.”
She believes the stress and pain of her experience caused her to have a heart attack in December 2017.
“This win won’t repair the damage, but it will contribute to medical expenses that have piled up over the years as I try to manage my pain,” she said.
Ethicon said in a statement it “empathises with all women who experience medical complications” and was considering its options in the wake of the failed appeal.
“Ethicon believes it acted ethically and responsibly in the research, development and supply of its pelvic mesh products and stress urinary incontinence tape products and appropriately and responsibly communicated the benefits and risks to doctors and patients in Australia,” the statement said.