MT Weekly: End of Essure, Virus Outbreak, Allergan’s Alleged Anti-Litigation Clause

2020 Marks Global End of Essure Birth Control

Device News

As of Jan. 1, Essure birth control, the first and only nonsurgical method of sterilization, is no longer available to women in the U.S. Essure consists of two flexible metal coils inserted vaginally into the fallopian tubes where they form scar tissue that prevents pregnancy. The coils have been associated with a host of problems, including migrating from their intended location, puncturing the uterus or fallopian tubes and allergic or autoimmune reactions.

Between 2002, when Essure was approved by the Food and Drug Administration, through 2018, the agency received 32,773 medical device reports. The most frequent complaints were pain/abdominal pain, menstrual irregularities, headache, fatigue and weight gain. Fifteen adult deaths and 1,055 pregnancy losses were also reported.

The Netflix medical device dangers documentary “The Bleeding Edge,” which was released in April 2018, raised awareness of Essure issues. That same month the FDA restricted sales of Essure to providers willing to review an Essure risk warnings checklist with prospective patients. In October 2018, manufacturer Bayer reported that it faced lawsuits from more than 18,000 U.S. plaintiffs. In 2017, Bayer announced the cessation of all foreign Essure sales, leaving the U.S. the sole remaining country where Essure was still in use.

Founded in 2011, the Essure Problems Facebook group currently has more than 42,600 members.

First Mysterious Pneumonia Virus Death Reported in China

Actions Abroad

On Saturday, Chinese authorities announced the death of a 61-year-old man in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, population 19 million. This was the first death resulting from an early December outbreak of pneumonia believed to be caused by a new strain of coronavirus, as the Wall Street Journal reported.

The previously unknown virus, which had infected at least 41 people and left seven in critical condition as of Saturday, was identified by Chinese health researchers last week. It appears that the virus is not easily transmissible among humans. Researchers are not certain that all outbreaks of the illness are due to the virus.

Women Accuse Breast Implant Manufacturer Allergan of Misleading Prospective Patients

Legal Developments

Earlier this month, a group of female plaintiffs alleging that Allergan hid the carcinogenicity of its textured breast implants made another allegation: that Allergan is attempting to trick prospective new breast implant patients into unwittingly waiving their right to participate in litigation, as reported by Law360.

The women belong to one of four similar class action suits against Allergan that were consolidated in a New Jersey federal court in what’s known as multidistrict legislation. In a memorandum to the court, the women alleged that Allergan had buried a “release of all claims” in a company offer to reimburse new patients for surgical breast implantation costs.

The women are requesting that the court stop Allergan’s misleading communications, void existing releases of claims obtained this way, stop further solicitation of additional releases, give plaintiff’s attorneys a list of affected women, and notify affected women of their legal rights and of existing class action lawsuits.

Largest Ever Drop in U.S. Cancer Death Rate

Public Health

The New York Times reported that deaths from cancer, the second leading cause of death in the U.S. after heart disease, declined 2.2% between 2016 and 2017 — the largest one-year decline ever reported. Experts attribute the decline in cancer mortality to a reduction in smoking rates, more effective lung cancer treatments, and new therapies for melanoma type skin cancer.

The rate of decline in deaths from breast and colorectal cancers has slowed, while the once-falling rate of prostate cancer deaths has completely ceased. It has been suggested that rising obesity among Americans is at fault for this public health concern.

This year, 1,806,590 new cancer cases and 606,520 cancer deaths are predicted. Since 1991 the overall U.S. cancer death rate has declined 29%.

Johnson & Johnson Settles Baby Powder Cancer Case Mid-Trial for More Than $2 Million

Legal Developments

Last week, a California state judge presiding over a Johnson & Johnson baby powder cancer case announced mid-trial, before a jury could weigh in, that the company had settled with the plaintiffs. According to Bloomberg News, people familiar with the case reported that Johnson & Johnson had agreed to pay Mark and Linda O’Hagan more than $2 million.

The couple alleged that asbestos-contaminated Johnson & Johnson baby powder had caused Linda O’Hagan’s mesothelioma, for which she was diagnosed in 2018. Most commonly caused by asbestos exposure, mesothelioma is a deadly cancer of the mesothelium, the thin tissues covering most internal organs.

In October, Johnson & Johnson voluntarily recalled about 33,000 baby powder bottles after the Food and Drug Administration found sub-trace levels of asbestos in one bottle. The O’Hagan jury was slated to be one of the first to information related to the FDA’s testing for asbestos in talc.

Although Johnson & Johnson is currently facing nearly 17,000 lawsuits alleging that the company concealed that its baby powder was tainted with cancer-causing asbestos, in 2019 the company won eight verdicts and lost five. In a December victory for Johnson & Johnson, a St. Louis jury decided that the company’s baby powder had not caused a woman’s ovarian cancer.

By Carah Wertheimer

Carah Wertheimer is a freelance writer based in Boulder, Colorado. Her areas of specialization include food, health, environment, social justice and community reporting. Her work has appeared in National Geographic, The Denver Post, The Daily Beast, the Boulder Daily Camera, Boulder Weekly and other publications.

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