*Op-Ed* NYT Transvaginal Mesh Coverage Misses the Big Picture

Jane Akre
September 26, 2018

Mesh News Desk, September 26, 2018 ~  Glad to see that another media outlet shares out feeling about mainstream media coverage.  The New York Times has done two stories about transvaginal mesh, unfortunately they focused on the greedy lawyers and doctors who are preying on hapless women encouraging unnecessary surgeries.

The latest coverage comes from the Periscope Group, which is a legal referral service, but the article is good! See it here.

As Mesh News Desk has written often, the Times focuses on a woman out of Arkansas who had a transvaginal mesh (TVM) implanted.  She received a phone call and was led to a removal doctor working with a law firm and finance company, all of whom would profit from the scheme.  See the Times story September 11 here.

The unnamed writer for Periscope continues:

What initially caught my attention were buzzwords such as “prosecutors” “subpoenas” and “pelvic-mesh surgery financing.” But, after reading the article, I was disappointed to find the story digressed into a condescending commentary and overgeneralization of the entire TVM litigation.

The patient in question, Jerri Plummer, is made to look like a pawn in this for -profit scheme. She has sued her revision surgeon in Florida and her mesh lawyer in Minnesota.  She is reported to have said that her Boston Scientific tape was defectively designed but caused her "little harm."

Loaded words like "tricked" "unnecessary surgery,"  "lured," all with the end goal of being awarded a larger cash settlements.  Not only did doctors and lawyers have dollar signs in their eyes, but the women did too, it implies. She was misled about the necessity to have her mesh removed, the story says, giving a big pass to the entire mesh debacle which has impacted the lives of hundreds of thousands of women and their families.

Prolift, from Sumsuro, Japan

Blame the greedy lawyers and doctors and patients.

As your editor has written in MND, after doing this for more than 7 years, I've heard from two women who were told not to use their own insurance and instead to rely on "funders" to provide a concierge service driving them to/from the airport, accommodating them in a hotel, arranging the surgery and its cost, then sending them home.  The Times indicates hundreds of unnecessary surgeries may have been performed under these questionable circumstances.

In both cases, the women wanted the surgery, they just didn't have the funds to pay for one.

How many women cannot afford to pay for their removal?  In some cases, a funder will pay for the surgery at a discounted rate, then take the wholesale or retail cost of the surgery out of the eventual settlement.  If there is no settlement, the funder receives nothing. Doctors are often willing to agree to a discounted surgical rate because they receive payment right away rather than waiting years to be reimbursed. Some of the better mesh removal doctors have taken mesh out of women through these arrangements, which can be a win-win for all involved.

One of these funders told me that when he spoke to a Reuters reporter about his arrangement, which he considered legitimate, the reporter said "I can't use that, it's not what I've heard from others."  Were those others lawyers for Big Pharma?  The man's comments did not make it to the final Reuters piece.

The New York Times and Reuters are missing the big picture here.

The facts are that at least 150,000 defective product lawsuits have been filed in the United States by women who claim they were injured by polypropylene mesh.  Those are likely the women who have televisions or are online.  Women who do not access media may be told they are "just getting old," and live with the complications.

Vada Mae Smith

That's what happened to Vada Mae Smith. For years her health spiraled downward until she saw a television commercial one night and told her daughter, "That's what I have."   Her vigilant daughter uncovered hundreds of pages of her mother's medical records to reveal that Vada had two meshes implanted by a West Virginia doctor.  Ultimately, no one could find the mesh. Vada died of unrelenting infections and sepsis after suffering for years.  An autopsy revealed the mesh was embedded in her bladder.

There are far more stories like Vadas' that are tragic tales of mangled bodies. Some are fatal; some live without a uterus, colon or urethra. Some take their own lives because of the pain.

Mesh trials have told us that TVM did not undergo clinical testing before it was put on the market and that industry knew there would be problems. Doctors were never instructed on how to remove mesh if there were complications. The truth is there is no good way. Even skilled doctors have trouble doing a complete removal.  Some removals result in further damage due to the blind procedures.

Discovery documents have also told us that industry knew some doctors were not up to the task of implant mesh safely, but they were trained by preceptors, or industry consultants anyway, some in weekend cadaver clinics. We've seen emails where one mesh maker set up a dummy company to continue to buy raw polypropylene from a petroleum supplier even though it was explicitly stated in the documents that accompany raw products, the resin was not to be made into implantable medical devices.

We've seen fake lot numbers attached to questionable polypropylene sourced from a Chinese counterfeiter and smuggled into the U.S. Numerous emails show that industry knew polypropylene was the "best of a bad lot" and some industry insiders warned against using it.

Globally, Scotland and New Zealand have a suspension on mesh procedures as millions of mesh "kits" have been sold by U.S.- based mesh makers. They represent some of the biggest name in Big Pharma, including Boston Scientific, Johnson & Johnson (Ethicon), C.R. Bard, AMS (Endo) among others.  Watch the evening news and count the number of Big Pharma commercials.

These are the stories that the New York Times and Reuters should be tackling-true stories of profiteers preying on unsuspecting patients and even, in some cases, their doctors. It is understood in the media that who ever gets to a reporter first likely will have their version of the story told. That may have happened here.

Let these media outlets know the other side of the story that deserves to be told. Your side!  Tell them about your life after a mesh implant!

Periscope adds here are the contacts for the New York Times reporters:



Telephone number: (212) 556-7690


MND, Breaking News! AMS Alleges “Scheme” to Profit from Transvaginal Mesh Injuries, October 10, 2013

MND, AMS Granted Limited Discovery into Alleged “Scheme” in Transvaginal Mesh Litigation, October 13, 2013

Reuters, The Lien Machine, New breed of investor profits by financing surgeries for desperate women patients, August 18, 2015

MND, Deconstructing “The Lien Machine, September 3, 2015

Reuters,  Pelvic Mesh Maker AMS claims women were lured into needless surgeries, May 20, 2016

New York Times, How Profiteers Lure Women Into Often- Unneeded Surgery, April 14, 2018

New York Times, Prosecutors are Said to Issue Subpoenas Over Pelvic-Mesh Surgery Financing, September 11, 2018

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