DALLAS — The Texas Attorney General's Office has Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary, Ethicon, in its sights for potential deceptive trade violations.
The company makes a polypropylene mesh used in thousands of operations annually for hernia, stress incontinence, and pelvic organ prolapse.
The FDA has issued warnings about the mesh, saying “serious complications [...] are not rare.” Thousands of women have filed suit against the makers of certain mesh implants.
Two weeks ago, Texas women who claim injuries from pelvic mesh sent a letter to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott requesting an investigation. The letter was sent on behalf of the women by the Corporate Action Network, a political action committee conducting a consumer-based investigation into whether Johnson & Johnson shredded documents related to defective design.
A spokesperson with the Texas attorney general's office declined comment, but confirmed the agency's consumer protection division has been quietly leading a nationwide investigation of mesh products for nearly two years. Washington, California, South Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Illinois, Colorado, and Maryland are part of the probe.
A Civil Investigation Demand document obtained by News 8 was filed for "possible violations" related to the "advertising, marketing, promotion, sale and distribution of surgical mesh products..."
Abbott is demanding documents from Johnson & Johnson and Ethicon related to safety and research. It would also like details about "financial and other incentives" paid to doctors and representatives selling mesh products.
In the document, the attorney general warns the companies not to "destroy any documents related to [...] the requests."
"What I would like to see from the investigation is, what happened?” asked Aaron Leigh Horton. “Where was the breakdown?"
Horton founded The Mesh Warrior Fouundation, an online patient advocacy group, after her own mother was debilitated from a mesh operation in 2009.
Even though Horton spends hours every week researching the product, writing about it, talking to victims, and contacting authorities, she knew nothing about the state's investigation.
She wonders why it is taking so long to find answers.
“It is an extreme burden on society, and an extreme injury to many women in the baby boomer generation and many men who went in for hernia repair,” Horton said. "And the cost to the public -- the cost to the families, because the injury trickles down from the woman to the family. It has got to be investigated because it can't happen again."
News 8 has contacted Johnson & Johnson and Ethicon, but has not yet received a response.