With all of the bad news coming out about the dangers of defective synthetic transvaginal mesh made of polypropylene used to treat prolapse and incontinence as well as the thousands of lawsuits waiting to be heard in state and federal courts filed by severely injured women looking to regain their lives, it is no wonder that the industry is pushing back.
The Pelvic Floor Disorders Alliance, a group of medical societies, doctors and the mesh industry, has launched a Public Awareness Campaign to encourage women to seek treatment for pelvic floor disorders.
“PFDs can impact various aspects of life, everything from exercise and travel to confidence and sexual intimacy, but women should not be embarrassed or feel like they just have to live with it. Instead, we want to empower women to speak up with confidence.”
And speaking up means seeking medical advice and possibly a surgical option.
In a survey conducted in August, the group reports that 90 percent of Americans are uncertain about pelvic floor disorders (PFDs) and are going untreated. The PFD Alliance says one in three women will suffer at some point in their lives. The campaign, “Break Free from PFDs,” is geared to encourage women to seek treatment to improve their quality of life, both surgical and non-surgical.
The Alliance says women instead seek an over-the counter solutions such as pads or wait until they can’t take it anymore. Only one in five women will seek a surgical procedure to correct a PFD. Instead the group says women should seek a urogynecologist to “address specific symptoms.”
The group has a website, voicesforpfd.org, and use the interactive tools to understand symptoms.
What is the Alliance?
The PFD Alliance was formed in September 2011 bringing together doctors, medical societies and “scientific discovery corporations” to increase awareness of PFDs to help women seek surgical and non-surgical treatments of female pelvic floor disorders. The American Urogynecologic Society (AUGS) founded the organization along with Foundation for Female Health Awareness, which is backed by mesh maker Ethicon, (Johnson & Johnson), Boston Scientific Corporation and Merck Consumer Care.
“All Alliance members are working from a shared vision to improve the quality of life for women through education and access to a comprehensive list of treatment options” which include Kegel exercises, dietary changes, fewer alcoholic drinks and caffeine beverages, electrical stimulation, or use of a pessary; however if those don’t work there is always the surgical treatment option.
Since this was the first survey taken by the Alliance, it’s impossible to determine if there are fewer women choosing a surgical option using transvaginal mesh, but certainly the word is getting out that transvaginal mesh placement to treat prolapse and incontinence potentially carries life-altering complications.
Between 2008 and 2010, the FDA reported at least 2,874 mesh complication complaints into its database which likely reflects about one-tenth of what is occurring in real life. Those women are filing lawsuits by the thousands in state and federal court around the country to try and stop the promotion of polypropylene mesh as a good alternative to traditional suture treatment.
Even the conservative FDA indicated in its July 2011 Safety Communication that “serious complications associated with surgical mesh for transvaginal repair of POP are not rare.” (FDA’s emphasis) “Furthermore, it is not clear that transvaginal POP repair with mesh is more effective than tradition non-mesh repair in all patients with POP and it may expose patients to greater risk.”
With the jury out, why then are medical societies still promoting surgery with synthetic mesh as an alternative?