ST. LOUIS – No decision has yet been made on how money from a settlement over alleged deceptive practices by the makers of pelvic surgical mesh will be distributed.
Attorneys general from 41 states, including Missouri, have reached a $116.9 million settlement with the makers of a pelvic surgical mesh which allegedly caused serious side effects and damages to some users. Missouri's share, following the settlement with Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Ethicon, will be $2.4 million, the office of Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced last week.
However, because the agreement has only been reached recently, it has yet to be decided how the money will be used, Chris Neulle, Schmitt's press secretary, said.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt | twitter.com/AGEricSchmitt
"It has not been decided just yet," Nuelle said. "Some (monies) do go to consumers directly, other settlements go into general operating funds ... (and) dispersed across the state."
Nuelle explained that while avoiding further litigation is in many cases preferable, there are some actions that attorneys general do want to see before the courts.
He added that there does appear to be a resurgence in the number of actions taken by attorneys general in concert, particularly when it relates to consumers in various states, including Missouri, being harmed by products that allegedly are deceptively marketed.
The settlement with Ethicon announced last week does not affect the thousands of product liability claims taken by mostly older women who had the pelvic, or transvaginal, devices used to treat bladder and other issues implanted in their bodies.
According to the original complaint filed by the attorneys general, the J&J subsidiary "violated state consumer protection laws by misrepresenting the safety and effectiveness of the devices and failing to sufficiently disclose risks associated with their use."
"The settlements announced last week with state attorneys general resolve a previously disclosed multi-state investigation of Ethicon’s sales and marketing practices for transvaginal mesh in the United States," Mindy Tinsley, an Ethicon spokeswoman, said. "This settlement with 41 states and the District of Columbia involves no admission of liability or misconduct on the part of Ethicon, which remains focused on meeting the significant surgical care needs of health care providers and patients."
She also noted the agreement has "no impact on ongoing product liability litigation for pelvic mesh products."
Approximately 25,000 women across are involved in lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson over the surgical meshes. It is alleged the implanted devices caused severe pain, bleeding and infections.
"Selling products to Missourians while failing to disclose the potential dangers and side effects of those products is deception, plain and simple," Schmitt said in a statement following the announcement of the settlement. "Missouri’s consumer protection laws exist to ensure consumers are protected from fraud and misrepresentation, and Ethicon and Johnson & Johnson’s actions are a clear violation of those laws."
Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries are involved in lawsuits on multiple fronts, including claims that individuals were harmed by baby powder and over the sale of opioids and other prescription drugs, including Risperdal.
Plaintiffs were awarded $4.7 billion by a Missouri jury last year over claims that Johnson & Johnson's talc-based baby powder was linked to ovarian cancer, a decision and amount it has so far failed to overturn.