Plaintiffs involved in the massive litigation against makers of transvaginal mesh products are now looking into the relationship between doctors and manufacturers like Johnson & Johnson. There are tens of thousands of lawsuits pending against Johnson & Johnson over its mesh products, which caused serious, often devastating injuries in women. Our team of transvaginal mesh lawyers takes a closer look into the relationship between Big Pharma and doctors who prescribe their products.
In recent years there has been a large-scale effort to increase transparency in American health care, and detailing the relationship between doctors and medical manufacturers is an extremely important part of this process. Doctors in all specialties are often approached by companies like Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson to tout their products in exchange for handsome financial incentives, wherein doctors either recommend their products to their patients or speak publicly about the products’ benefits in conferences or medical meetings.
Transvaginal mesh products were prescribed to women with pelvic organ prolapse and stress urinary incontinence. The product is meant to be permanent to reinforce the weakened vaginal organs, so complete removal is often impossible even in women who suffer severe complications from the products.
And there is a high likelihood that complications will arise, which the FDA has noted. Since it became clear that these products are inherently and excessively dangerous, many have wondered why doctors and surgeons recommended them for so many thousands of women. The answer, it seems, is disheartening, and can be traced back to payments made to doctors by Johnson & Johnson and other mesh product manufacturers.
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Through these transvaginal mesh lawsuits, emails and other documents are being revealed in court that link doctors and surgeons to payments. In 2007, for example, one physician was paid by Johnson & Johnson to influence the language written by the medical society about the treatment guidelines for pelvic organ prolapse. Not surprisingly, those guidelines suggested that the condition be treated with transvaginal mesh devices similar to those made by J&J. Another was paid over $800,000 over eight years to influence medical documents in favor of the mesh products.
J&J also attempted to change the language of a research paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) in 2011, so that it would place a more favorable light on mesh products. Courts recently subpoenaed editors of NEJM to have them testify in court. Stories similar to this proliferate.
Financial Relationships in the Medical Community
Though the public is largely blind to it, payments between physicians, medical device manufacturers, Big Pharma, and other similar agencies are legal and extremely common. Those involved in the practice claim it is beneficial to all involved, so doctors can be “well-informed” about new or improved medical products and medications. The problems, however, are self-evident, particularly when companies like J&J create and aggressively promote products that turn out to be extremely harmful.
Top doctors who are willing to commit much of their time to this can earn tens of thousands of dollars or more. In 2010, the federal government passed the Physician Payment Sunshine Act to encourage transparency, so the public can be more aware of the relationship between certain doctors and the medical device and pharmaceutical industry.
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Recent, multi-billion dollar settlements between the federal government and Big Pharma illustrate just how harmful this practice can be. GlaxoSmithKline, for example, recently paid about $3 billion to settle allegations over its promotion of its drugs Paxil, Avandia and Wellbutrin, which are also subject to massive injury litigation.
That doctors and medical device companies would have discussions makes sense, as their aims to help improve medical care align, but only to a point. Big Pharma is still interested foremost in profits, and the act of paying physicians to help them please investors with bigger sales is a slippery slope. It places vulnerable patients and the public at risk, and the transvaginal mesh debacle is just the tip of the iceberg.
Transvaginal mesh lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm are currently investigating cases of serious injury from these products. Our all-female team provides free, confidential legal consultations to injured women throughout the country. We know how much you have suffered, and we want to help you gain justice for your suffering and fight back against the negligent manufacturers.