Mesh Medical Device News Desk, October 19, 2016 ~ They Did It Again… And They Aren’t Going to Stop, Hernia Mesh Problems Are Not Going Away and Are Finally Being Recognized Once Again by the Legal Community, Sponsored Content Hollis Law Firm
By now, everyone is familiar with the transvaginal mesh litigation.
In the last decade, over 100,000 pelvic mesh lawsuits have been filed. But the companies haven’t learned their lesson, they just look at the lawsuits as the cost of doing business. And apparently they’re right, because their businesses are doing better than ever. While everyone was distracted with the pelvic mesh litigation, the companies found a way to make even more money selling defective hernia mesh. Why are these companies continuing this egregious behavior?
The US Legal System has Failed
The United States legal system, arguably the best in the world, is responsible for ensuring the integrity of other professions and protecting the general public. However, the US legal system has failed to regulate the medical industry. As a result, the medical industry has been corrupted, hundreds of thousands of US citizens have been severely injured, and many have lost faith in the entire medical community.
The United States legal system allows for the award of punitive damages. Punitive damages are intended to reform or deter the defendant or others from engaging in conduct similar to that which was the basis for the lawsuit. In order to deter future similar conduct, punitive damages have to be large enough to really financially hurt a company. Considering Johnson & Johnson’s $70 Billion yearly income, or Boston Scientific’s $7 Billion yearly income, it would take a lot to convince these companies to change their ways.
Part of the problem is that pharmaceutical and medical device companies have been very successful at limiting the number of cases that to go to trial every year. Compounding that problem, judges have been reducing the verdicts that juries award, including the punitive damages! Just last year a judge reduced a $100 million pelvic mesh jury verdict to $10 million. The judge noted that prior punitive damage awards in mesh cases ranged from $1 – 8 million. How is a few million going to punish a company that brings in billions every year? It doesn’t, and it didn’t. It only incentivized the mesh manufacturers to continue what they had been doing, but on an even larger scale. We didn’t punish these companies for what they did with pelvic mesh, now we must deal with the much more widespread problem of hernia mesh.
The Hernia Mesh Epidemic
As everyone focused on the pelvic mesh litigation, the companies shifted into the expanding the hernia mesh market. Currently there are over 1 million hernia repairs performed in the US every year. Skilled hernia repair specialists have always been able to repair hernias without mesh, but that’s not profitable to the medical device companies. The companies then devised ways for general surgeons to attempt repairing hernias using mesh. Laparoscopic procedures were easier for general surgeons to perform, but required placing the mesh closer to the patient’s internal organs. When mesh comes in contact with internal organs, it will typically stick to the organs and cause severe injuries. In an attempt to prevent this complication, the manufacturers applied cheap absorbable coatings to the mesh and then raised the price exponentially. The companies increased the cost of their product while simultaneously expanding the market and demand. The hernia mesh device market is estimated to be worth 3.7 billion by 2020. General surgeons have profited from the proliferation of mesh implants. They have finally found a way to get paid as much as a specialized surgeon. Everyone is benefiting… except for the patients.
Coated Hernia Mesh
The coatings on hernia mesh are prone to degradation by most forms of sterilization. This has caused companies to alter their sterilization processes so as to not degrade their hernia meshes. However, the sterilization changes have resulted in many contaminated hernia meshes being implanted. Many of the improperly sterilized hernia mesh products contain dormant bacteria called endospores. Endospores can remain dormant for months or even years after being implanted into the human body. Once the endospore reactivates itself, a hernia mesh infection can occur out of nowhere. The attorneys at Hollis Law Firm have been seeing high rates of infection associated with coated hernia mesh.
Chronic Mesh Infections
Nearly all hernia mesh that becomes infected will continue to be infected until the mesh is fully removed. Hernia mesh infections are extremely difficult to cure, because the infection develops into a biofilm, which functions as an ecosystem of bacteria covering the entire mesh. Biofilm research is still in its infancy, because biofilms haven’t been much of an issue until now. Biofilms are usually only found in nature, not in the human body – with the exception of dental plaque which is a type of biofilm. What has been discovered about biofilms in recent years is disturbing and effectively explains the sudden explosion of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria: A Threat to Us All
Mutations must occur for bacteria to become antibiotic resistant. Bacteria can mutate 60 times faster once a biofilm is formed! Bacteria are able to survive antibiotic levels 100 to 1,000 times higher once a biofilm is formed. It has also been discovered that bacteria are able to transfer their acquired antibiotic resistances to other types of bacteria in a process known as horizontal transfer. Many hernia mesh biofilms contain several different types of highly antibiotic resistant bacteria when they are explanted. Many patients also develop pneumonia and other infections that become extremely hard to treat due to the bacteria’s acquired antibiotic resistance from a hernia mesh biofilm. Patients with infected hernia mesh have become walking incubators for the most resistant forms of bacteria imaginable.
There are currently hundreds of thousands of US citizens with an infected hernia mesh. Unfortunately most surgeons refuse to remove the mesh or are unable to remove the mesh. Mesh often grows into the patient’s organs due to how deeply the mesh was implanted. Explanting a mesh that has attached to the underlying organs may risk bowel perforation, needing a colostomy, and even death. A majority of general surgeons that implant mesh are not skilled enough to remove the same mesh. Instead, patients are maintained on high doses of IV antibiotics for months or even years. Antibiotics will not kill a biofilm, they will only temporarily suppress the symptoms. Once the dose of antibiotics has been reduced, the biofilm comes back even stronger. The Hollis Law firm has observed that most of our clients that have a hernia mesh biofilm have subsequently developed dental problems. This is due to the biofilm’s tendency to create systemic infections throughout the body.
Uncoated Hernia Mesh and Inguinal Hernias
The coating on hernia mesh isn’t the only problem. The coating only exists to cover the base material, polypropylene, which has always been a big problem. Uncoated polypropylene mesh is often used to repair inguinal hernias. Inguinal hernias affect men more than women, ten times more, in fact. The inguinal canal is very narrow and compact. Within the male inguinal canal is the spermatic cord, which attaches to the testes. Over time, the mesh erodes into the spermatic cord and other nerves, causing debilitating pain. Many men are left with the option of removing their testicle or trying to cope with the unrelenting pain.
Hernia Mesh Pain
Pain caused by hernia mesh is something that needs a lot more attention. Hernia mesh is made up of thousands of little pores. Over time a patient’s nerves will regrow into the mesh pores. As the mesh begins to erode and migrate through the body, it pulls and stretches the nerves. The pain caused by nerves stretching is unbearable, yet many physicians tell patients the pain is psychosomatic. Pain can be the most severe complication of a hernia mesh, even worse than those who have had their entire bowel removed. There are athletes and veterans in their 20’s and 30’s that have had an inguinal hernia repaired with mesh and are now disabled because they can’t walk due to the pain. Many patients have committed suicide due to their persistent hernia mesh pain, and countless more have admitted to contemplating it. Those with hernia mesh pain need help, and physicians need to listen.
Hernia Mesh Lawsuits
The current hernia mesh litigation is still in its infancy. Expect many more attorneys to start taking hernia mesh cases in the coming months and years. The pelvic mesh litigation has taken years to start resolving, and the hernia mesh litigation will be no different.
If you have been implanted with a hernia mesh since 2000 and are experiencing complications, contact the Hollis Law Firm at 1-800-701-3672 for a free hernia mesh lawsuit evaluation. More information is also available at https://hollislawfirm.com/case/hernia-mesh-lawsuit/.