Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) has been ordered to pay almost $344 million in penalties for deceptively marketing its pelvic-mesh products. San Diego Superior Court Judge Eddie C. Sturgeon issued an 88-page ruling finding that the company “marketed the benefits of its mesh products without fully and truthfully disclosing the accompanying risks and complications.” Any penalties paid will go to the state attorney general’s office to fund consumer protection and enforcement.
From 2008 to 2014, Johnson & Johnson sold more than 470,000 pelvic mesh products across the country, including more than 30,000 in California. In 2016, the state of California sued the company over allegations of unfair competition and false advertising. Patients involved in the lawsuit claim that Johnson & Johnson didn’t provide information about many of the potential risks. According to the judge’s ruling, the marketing was likely to deceive doctors and consumers about the risks.
Pelvis meshes, also referred to as transvaginal meshes, are a type of woven synthetic netting that is supposed to help support the pelvic organs. The devices are specifically designed to treat stress incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse. Complications could include chronic pain, difficulty urinating and defecating, and loss of sexual function. Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra said in a statement, “Johnson & Johnson knew the danger of its mesh products but put profits ahead of the health of millions of women.”
The ruling comes after a nine-week bench trial was held last summer. A spokeswoman for the New Jersey-based company has said that it will appeal the ruling. Spokeswoman Mindy Tinsley said that the company’s Ethicon surgical products unit “responsibly communicated the risks and benefits of its transvaginal mesh products to doctors and patients,” and that California failed to present evidence to prove its claims. The appeals process could take years.
The company has been hit with more than 35,000 personal-injury suits over the surgically implanted devices. In October, Johnson & Johnson agreed to a $117-million settlement with 41 states and the District of Columbia over similar allegations involving the mesh devices. The California, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Mississippi lawsuits remained unaffected.