Too Little, Too Late: FDA Belatedly Initiates Limited Action to Address Unsafe and Ineffective Surgical Mesh Used in Pelvic Repair Procedures, as Requested by Public Citizen

Statement by Michael Carome, Director, Public Citizen’s Health Research Group

Public Citizen welcomes today’s long-overdue issuance of a proposed order by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that, if finalized, would reclassify surgical mesh for transvaginal pelvic repair organ prolapse (POP) from a moderate-risk device (class II) to a high-risk device (class III). This would subject these devices to a more rigorous approval process that would require manufacturers to submit to the agency premarket approval applications with evidence from clinical trials that the devices are safe and effective. Such an order would implement one of three actions requested in Public Citizen’s August 25, 2011, petition to the FDA, which also requested an immediate ban and recall of all such devices currently on the market.

However, the FDA’s action today is troubling both in its scope and timing. First, the agency acknowledged that the safety and effectiveness of surgical mesh for transvaginal repair of POP has not been established and that these devices frequently cause serious adverse events. But the agency has taken no action to immediately remove currently available products from the market, as we requested in our petition, or to warn physicians and patients to stop using these devices.

Second, it is disturbing that the agency has taken so long to begin the regulatory process to reclassify surgical mesh for transvaginal repair of POP – today’s action comes nearly three years after our petition and after an FDA advisory committee recommended such action. Moreover, the proposed timeline for full implementation of the FDA’s order, if finalized, will take several more years.

As a result of the FDA’s reckless delays and inadequate action regarding surgical mesh for transvaginal POP repair, thousands of women will continue to be unnecessarily exposed to a wide array of serious risks, many of which can permanently alter women’s quality of life.

View more information about POP.

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