Health problems from mesh implants a medical disaster

By Derek Cheng

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

The chronic pain and health problems from mesh implants is a medical disaster that has affected an unknown number of victims, parliament has heard.

Carmel Berry and Charlotte Korte, two Auckland mothers who have suffered from mesh-related complications, are urging parliament to conduct an independent inquiry into mesh surgery.

"This is an emerging global scandal, a medical disaster never been seen before in New Zealand," Ms Berry told the health select committee yesterday.

Polypropylene mesh is used to treat hernias and to repair organ prolapse.

Ms Berry said her surgery for a prolapsed uterus has seen her in constant pain every time she sits down.

She said overseas studies showed up to 30 per cent of mesh surgeries ended in complications, but there was a dearth of consistent information across Government agencies in New Zealand.

ACC received over 500 mesh-related claims in the past 10 years. But Medsafe, the Government's medicines and medical devices safety authority, received only 64 complaints for adverse effects of mesh since 2004, Ms Berry said.

She cited ACC documents showing that ACC only received 10 per cent of eligible claims.

"If that is correct, then the scale of this medical nightmare must be truly unknown to any New Zealand health authority, including Medsafe. New Zealanders need this to be addressed, extremely urgently."

Often complications were blamed on surgical techniques, but Ms Berry said there were 400 gynaecologists in New Zealand, and 65,000 ongoing mesh-related court cases in the US.

"How can so many surgeons make so many errors? We believe it is a faulty product."

Labour Party health spokeswoman Annette King said an inquiry was necessary.

"Growing international concern and actions by other health regulators over complications involving this product should have set off alarm bells.

"It is not good enough for sufferers to be fobbed off or pushed between district health boards and ACC."

However Health Minister Tony Ryall last night indicated that he did not think an inquiry was necessary because mesh, when properly used, "had a complication rate that is lower than traditional methods and did not pose an unreasonable safety risk to patients".

"I'm satisfied Medsafe has taken appropriate measures with regard to surgical mesh products."

- NZ Herald

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