SYDNEY (AFP) - A major Australian class action suit on behalf of more than 700 women was launched against global health-care giant Johnson & Johnson on Tuesday (July 4) over an implant they claim causes serious side-effects including chronic pain.
The lawsuit followed the establishment of an Australian parliamentary inquiry earlier this year over the mesh implanted through surgery to fix pelvic floor damage and treat urinary incontinence and prolapse.
Similar legal action has also been taken in the United States and Britain.
Johnson & Johnson faces 55,800 plaintiffs in pelvic mesh cases in the US alone, with the "number of pending product liability lawsuits continues to increase" for the products by its unit Ethicon, the firm said in a report to the US Securities and Exchange Commission.
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Shine Lawyers, which is representing the claimants in the Federal Court, allege that up to 8,000 women in Australia were believed to be impacted by the implants.
"Australian women have had their lives changed forever by these products," Shine Lawyers Special Counsel Rebecca Jancauskas said in a statement.
"Many now live in excruciating pain, suffering terrible side effects that impact all aspects of their lives. In many cases they are even unable to be intimate with their partners. It has had truly devastating consequences."
Shine said the case was expected to last about six months, with the claimants hopeful it would lead to other women not having to experience the same issues.
Johnson & Johnson defended the mesh products, saying they were developed in consultation with surgeons and backed by clinical research.
"We have always complied fully with local regulatory requirements when providing the products in Australia, and have acted ethically and responsibly in the research, development and supply of the products," a spokeswoman for the US company said in a statement.
She said more than 100,000 mesh products had been sold in Australia, but that the company had only been notified of "fewer than 200 total product events", with 67 cases referred to Australian and New Zealand regulators.