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J&J to fork over $120M to settle thousands of vaginal mesh suits

The move marks the company's first big settlement over its devices
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Ethicon's Gynecare TVT Obturator device--Courtesy of Ethicon

Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) is shelling out more than $120 million to settle thousands of lawsuits from women who claim that the company's vaginal mesh inserts caused them pain and injury, months after other companies facing related suits such as Boston Scientific ($BSX) and C.R. Bard ($BCR) announced similar settlement agreements.

J&J's settlement will resolve 2,000 to 3,000 suits from women alleging organ damage and constant pain from the company's mesh products after implantation, Bloomberg reports. But the settlement is only the tip of the iceberg for J&J and its Ethicon unit, as the company still faces about 42,400 cases over the products. "From time to time we have appropriately agreed to resolve some cases," J&J spokesman Ernie Knewitz told the news outlet. "We will not discuss the terms, nor discuss our ongoing litigation strategy."

This is the first time J&J has stepped up to the table to resolve a substantial number of mesh cases, Bloomberg points out. The company is still refusing to join talks between plaintiffs' lawyers and other insert makers who are seeking a global resolution of litigation, University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told the news outlet. U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin, who is overseeing a number of mesh cases, has been pushing companies toward a global settlement.

J&J has traveled a long legal road over vaginal mesh litigation. Related cases started cropping up in 2011 and in 2012, the company decided to pull some lines of vaginal mesh products from the market. Juries across the U.S. have found J&J/Ethicon liable for injuries linked to the inserts. Even though the company has won some victories, it has also charted some sizable losses. Last month, a Philadelphia jury ordered J&J to pay $12.5 million to a woman claiming bladder damage from Ethicon's Prolift mesh.

J&J is not the only company trying to put its mesh-related problems behind it. In 2014, Endo ($ENDP) said it would add $400 million to its $1.2 billion stockpile to resolve "substantially all" of its remaining claims over mesh products. Last year, Boston Scientific said it would pay $119 million to wrap up more than 3,000 cases over the devices. In August, Bard agreed to fork over more than $200 million to put at least 3,000 cases to rest.

Meanwhile, the FDA is cracking down on vaginal mesh devices amid growing safety concerns. The agency earlier this month said that it would reclassify surgical transvaginal mesh devices for pelvic organ prolapse (POP) from Class II to Class III, a designation typically reserved for high-risk devices. Regulators are also requiring manufacturers to get premarket approval for new products.

- read the Bloomberg story

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