An order issued last month by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District for Georgia began establishing a timeline that will move the first bellwether cases toward trial for the Ethicon Physiomesh multidistrict litigation (MDL). The order set the first trial date for September 2019.

Last summer, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) established the Physiomesh MDL. The JPML consolidated nearly 70 lawsuits that were pending at the time in 36 different district courts across the country. It reports that 469 cases are now pending against Physiomesh makers Ethicon and Johnson & Johnson as part of the MDL.

Used to repair areas of weak muscle, called hernias, in the abdomen, Physiomesh is attached to, and reinforces, the abdominal wall to keep the hernia from reopening. It is made of polypropylene, which is a flexible plastic product known to deteriorate or erode once implanted. Plaintiffs argue that the deteriorating mesh separates from the abdominal wall and travels through the body. Mesh fragments can perforate or puncture organs and cause chronic pain, infections and even death.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Physiomesh in April 2010 through its fast-track 510(k) process, allowing it to bypass rigorous safety and efficacy testing because of its similarities to one or more products already on the market.

In May 2016, Ethicon issued a Field Safety Notice and quietly withdrew the product from markets in the U.S., Europe and Australia. The Notice warned that Physiomesh, which is considered a medical device, seemed to have higher rates of hernia recurrence and re-opening in patients using the device as compared to patients using similar devices. Yet, neither Ethicon nor Johnson & Johnson officially recalled Physiomesh.

U.S. District Court for the Northern District for Georgia
Beasley Allen
U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation

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