CHARLESTON – West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey's office has filed suit against Johnson & Johnson and subsidiaries alleging the companies engaged in unlawful, unfair and deceptive marketing practices associated with their surgical mesh devices.
“Misrepresenting any product’s safety is unlawful and can have dire effects on consumers,” Morrisey said in a Sept. 18 press conference at the state Capitol. “When medical products are marketed in an improper manner, it can put consumers’ health at risk.”
The lawsuit, filed Sept. 18 in Monongalia Circuit Court, claims Johnson & Johnson and Ethicon misrepresented the effectiveness, properties, risks and safety history of the surgical mesh products in marketing and educational materials provided to patients and doctors, in personal meetings and in published medical articles.
Morrisey's office alleges informational and marketing materials for the companies’ surgical mesh devices consistently omitted or concealed complications.
Additionally, the lawsuit states that the surgical mesh products were misrepresented as being approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. However, the products were not tested in clinical trials to obtain FDA approval prior to their initial sale but were instead cleared by a less rigorous approval process.
Surgical mesh is used in the treatment of conditions caused by weakened or damaged tissues and muscles in the pelvic floor area, leading to what is commonly called a pelvic floor collapse. These conditions affect approximately one-third to one-half of women. The mesh is surgically implanted in the body to act as a scaffold for the growth of new tissue to repair the weakened and damaged tissues of the pelvic floor.
The Attorney General’s lawsuit alleges Johnson & Johnson and Ethicon violated the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act. It seeks civil penalties and a permanent injunction to prevent the companies from marketing, advertising, promoting, offering for sale, distributing or selling their surgical mesh products in West Virginia.
Thousands of individual mesh lawsuits have been filed in federal court in the Southern District of West Virginia, which is home to the federal Multi District Litigation
Morrisey said his office had hoped to file this case earlier, but he said it has been busy working on other litigation.
"With our office, we have separate law enforcement capabilities," he said when asked how his case is different that the federal ones filed by individuals. "This has been on our radar for a while now ... a few years, actually."