Pelvic Mesh Maker: Women had Unnecessary Surgeries for Profit

Brian Buntz

March 11, 2016

3 Min Read
Pelvic Mesh Maker: Women had Unnecessary Surgeries for Profit

The medical device company AMS had agreed to pay $1.6 billion to settle lawsuits over its vaginal mesh products. But now it is fighting back, claiming in court that there were plaintiffs who had unneeded surgical procedures to drive up settlements against mesh companies. AMS is also subpoenaing some of the law firms involved in the litigation.

Brian Buntz

American Medical Systems (AMS), a urology company that made vaginal mesh, is striking back after announcing in 2014 that it would pay $1.6 billion in damages to settle more than 40,000 claims from women who alleged that its products caused significant health problems.

The company has subpoenaed the Houston law firm AkinMears and a number of other law firms, hoping to learn more about their allegedly unethical mass torts strategy, according to Reuters. AkinMears plans to oppose the subpoena and has stressed that it defends the merit of the cases it pursues.

The company is not the first medical device firm to complain about law firms' strategy in pelvic mesh cases. Late last year, J&J subsidiary Ethicon complained about the "inappropriate, indeed illegal, solicitation of women by unscrupulous groups and individuals, compounded by ubiquitous attorney advertising."

AMS, a major defendant named in 100,000 vaginal mesh cases in consolidated litigation in Charleston, West Virginia, is seeking information via subpoena on the origin of many of the lawsuits filed against it. AMS is looking for documents that link patients, surgical centers, and private investors that have helped fund mesh procedures for mesh plaintiffs.

A Reuters article from last year examines the possibility that a number of medical lenders sought to recruit physicians willing to remove vaginal mesh and exaggerate the severity of their injuries in an attempt to boost awards against makers of pelvic mesh. Such lenders offer to cover surgeries of patients involved in lawsuits who are unable to pay their own medical bills. After the suits settle, the lenders seek compensation by using a lien covering the full amount of the surgical bill, which is sometimes ten fold or more than the amount that would be paid by Medicaid, which typically pays between $2000 to $7000 per procedure. By contrast, medical lenders have asked for as much as $62,000 for surgical procedures, according to Reuters.

AMS believes that some of the plaintiffs involved in the case were involved in similar scams. In a legal document from last August, AMS states that the circumstances of three plaintiffs and "perhaps many others" are "extremely suspect." "These Plaintiffs were all flown hundreds of miles away to have major surgery performed by [Dr. Earle Pescatore], a doctor none of these women had been examined by - or even met - before the day of their surgeries," it states. "Following their surgeries, each Plaintiff was sent back to a hotel, only to be put on a plane to fly back to her home state the very next day. None of these women ever was advised to have a follow-up appointment with Dr. Pescatore, and none of them have spoken to him since their surgeries."

AMS states that Pescatore demanded extremely compensation for extracting vaginal mesh. "At best, the 'cost' of these surgeries is being wildly inflated for the benefit of Dr. Pescatore and other unknown parties in the funding scheme. At worst, lawyers and others are orchestrating a large scale program of medically unnecessary surgeries, exploiting women who are often unsophisticated consumers of both medical and legal services."

AMS is also looking for details on the involvement of a legal marketing business known as Law Firm Headquarters in some of those cases. The subpoena is requesting Law Firm Headquarters' databases, telephone scripts and records, and its logs of Internet communication.

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