This month, a British Medical Journal investigation revealed that Ulm Ulmsted, the inventor of the vaginal mesh implant, was paid $1 million by Johnson & Johnson to manipulate his data to make it seem safe, leading to vaginal mesh being sold as a miracle cure for urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse. This isn’t the only time Johnson & Johnson’s practices have led to patient harm.
Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky claims his company’s mission is to help people “live longer, healthier and happier lives.” The truth is, under his watch, Johnson & Johnson medical devices have killed and injured hundreds of thousands of people, all in the name of profit.
Court records from lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson companies Ethicon and DePuy, which manufacture mesh and metal hips, respectively, reveal they knew their products were harmful before releasing them onto the market.
The Known Dangers of Transvaginal Mesh
Transvaginal mesh is made from woven plastic and used to treat common pelvic floor conditions. After implantation, scar tissue causes the mesh to shrink, damaging delicate tissues and often triggering unrelenting pain.
J & J’s transvaginal mesh product Prolift was not approved by the FDA before being released on the market, court records show. Johnson & Johnson had done studies and knew it wasn’t safe, but rather than let the public know, they just buried the studies.
These problems and more have been a central focus of more than 54,000 mesh lawsuits that patients have filed against Johnson & Johnson, more than any other manufacturer.
Johnson & Johnson’s “Billion Dollar Baby”
Johnson & Johnson’s practices around the manufacturing and marketing of its Pinnacle and ASR metal hips are just as abysmal, and have exposed the company to more than 10,000 lawsuits in the U.S. alone. The hips were not tested in humans before being sold, and while engineers warned the company that metal implants could cause “sudden catastrophic breakdown.” The hips were rushed to market anyway, and generated huge profits for the company.
Only after harming tens of thousands of people was one of their hips, the ASR, taken off the market. But the company saw this debacle as a marketing bonanza – because patients who had to have their defective hip removed could still be sold the other Johnson & Johnson hip, the Pinnacle. They knew the Pinnacle was also defective, yet they covered it up because it became so profitable, earning the nickname “Billion Dollar Baby.” Soon this hip was devastating patients, forcing many to undergo yet another dangerous operation to have a second defective Johnson & Johnson hip removed.
A Record of Greed
Internationally, Johnson & Johnson paid $70 million to settle criminal and civil charges brought under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, admitting that some of its foreign subsidiaries bribed doctors in Greece, Romania, and Poland to use their products – and paid kickbacks to the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein under the United Nations Oil for Food program.
What does Alex Gorsky think of all this? He refuses to say. Johnson & Johnson continues to insist its products are safe, with a spokesman telling us, “Pelvic mesh has helped improve the quality of life for millions of women” and “Similarly, our hips have helped patients enormously.”
Perhaps Gorsky’s perception is clouded by the $25 billion the company takes in annually on medical device sales, or perhaps he was more focused on his own bank account – in 2017 alone, as Chairman and CEO, Gorsky reportedly earned more than $22 million.
Alex Gorsky and Johnson & Johnson, it’s time to stop putting your greed over patient safety. Or to borrow from one of your own slogans, please, no more tears.