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July 24, 2017

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700 women in Australia claim that Johnson and Johnson vaginal mesh ruined their lives

More than 700 Australian women launched a class action lawsuit on Tuesday against pharmaceutical giant Johnson and Johnson, after suffering from "painful and life-altering complications" due to its vaginal mesh implants.

As many as 8,000 Australian women may be suffering from devastating complications after having the implant surgery, said Rebecca Jancauskas of Shine Lawyers, who filed the class action on behalf of the plaintiffs.

The implants are used to repair damaged tissues and to treat pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence, which are common conditions after childbirth.

"The complications that women are suffering include the mesh or tape eroding through, and into, surrounding tissue and organs, as well as incontinence, infection and chronic pain," Jancauskas said.

"In many cases they are even unable to be intimate with their partners," she said. "It has had truly devastating consequences."

Similar legal proceedings have already begun in the United States, Britain and Canada.

The Australian case, one of the country's largest product liability class action lawsuits, began in the Federal Court in Sydney with opening remarks from the plaintiffs' lawyers.

"I have been praying for nine years that this would come to light," Gai Thompson, one of the complainants, told reporters outside the court.

"No amount of money and compensation could ever replace what we have lost with our lives, with our families, our emotional and physical health," she said, saying the company needed to be held "accountable and responsible."

Johnson and Johnson did not respond to a dpa request for comment.

Tony Bannon, a barrister at Shine Lawyers, told the court that the pharmaceutical giant did not investigate proper clinical trials on the possible complications of the mesh.

There was a "tidal wave" of aggressive marketing to surgeons and patients that suggested implanting the mesh was a "quick and easy operation," he said, according to the Australian Associated Press.

Bannon also told the court the suffering of the applicants demonstrated the true risks of the mesh, risks none of the applicants would have taken if they had been properly advised.

Earlier this year, during an Australian Senate inquiry, the company said the use of implantable mesh was supported by clinical research and was often the preferred option to treat pelvic conditions.

But it did not give details of the total number of such implants, nor the numbers of those reporting adverse side effects or those who tried to remove the mesh in Australia or elsewhere.

The trial is expected to run for at least six months, with the court expected to hear from Australian and international experts as well as testimonies from patients who suffered due to the implants, according to Shine Laywers.

Johnson & Johnson's lawyers are expected to present their opening submissions next week.

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