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A judge in the US has ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $344 million for deceptively marketing its vaginal-mesh implants to consumers in California, the first state to bring such claims against the company to trial. "Johnson & Johnson knew the danger of its mesh products, but put profits ahead of the health of millions of women," remarked California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
Becerra had been seeking a fine of up to $800 million, although Johnson & Johnson recently settled similar claims by 41 other states for $117 million. California filed the lawsuit in 2016, along with the state of Washington, alleging that the company and its Ethicon unit had misrepresented the risks of vaginal mesh implants it sold to repair pelvic organ collapse.
In his ruling, San Diego Superior Court Judge Eddie Sturgeon imposed a penalty of $1250 for each of the roughly 153,300 breaches of California's unfair competition law and approximately 121,800 violations of false advertising statutes. The fine "represents less than 1% of Johnson & Johnson's $70.4-billion total net worth and is not unconstitutionally excessive or disproportionate," Sturgeon stated.
Johnson & Johnson plans to appeal the ruling. Ethicon spokeswoman Mindy Tinsley said the unit "responsibly communicated the risks and benefits of its transvaginal mesh products to doctors and patients, and [Sturgeon's] decision disregards the company's full compliance" with federal law governing medical-device communications.
Johnson & Johnson, which settled with Washington state last year for $9.9 million, but still faces lawsuits filed by Oregon, West Virginia, Kentucky and Mississippi, stopped selling the Prolift, Prolift+ M, TVT Secur and Prosima vaginal mesh implants in 2012 after being sued by more than 600 women who claimed the products caused internal injuries. According to the California Department of Justice, Johnson & Johnson has faced over 35,000 personal injury lawsuits related to its pelvic mesh products.
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