The Federal Court has ordered pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson to pay $2.6 million in damages to three women implanted with faulty pelvic mesh implants. The mesh devices left more than 1,350 Australian women with serious side effects including chronic pain, infections and the inability to have sex.
Of the 1,350 women who brought forward the class action last year, the Federal Court ruled in favour of the three lead applications. Lawyers deemed the case the largest women's health class action in Australian history.
The court found Johnson & Johnson were "negligent", driven by commercial interests, and failed to give appropriate or sufficient remedial action once it knew of problems with the implants. The court heard that Australian women were used as "guinea pigs" for the devices, which were not properly tested before being allowed onto the market. Despite Johnson & Johnson and the associated companies aware of the potential for serious complications, when patients complained of pain they were frequently disbelieved.
The devices, which were banned in 2017, have caused chronic ongoing pain, bleeding severe discomfort during sexual intercourse and a significant psychological toll to women. The mesh, which is near impossible to completely remove, has caused infections, multiple complications and, in many cases, has eroded internally, The Guardian reports.
The lawyer acting on behalf of the women, Jan Saddler, told media that her clients are happy with the ruling, although thousands of others who experienced side effects are still waiting for justice.
“Today is a significant step forward but there is still a way to go until all Australian women affected by these products receive compensation,” she said. “We’re pleased with the result and encouraged by the compensation for the three lead applicants ordered today.”
The company pitched the device as a safe way to reinforce the pelvic floor and treat urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapses. Instead, it left users in acute pain - especially during sex – and in some cases, severely damaged the surrounding organs.
The women in the courtroom, many of whom had canes or couldn't sit comfortably throughout the judgement because of mesh implant complications, broke down in tears when federal court justice Anna Katzmann said the evidence in the case was "overwhelming" and found the creator of the devices "negligent," ABC reports.