News item:PIP breast implants have been seriously overlooked

May 21, 2012

A recent government appraisal of the PIP breast implant fiasco, which has been one of the most publicised of personal injury issues over the last few years, has discovered that there are some questions that have been still left unanswered.

The appraisal was led by Lord Howe, the Health Minister.

The biggest question relates to the amount of women who had implants were actually told about the risks.

The French firm Poly Implant Prosthese (PIP) products were outlawed in 2010 after it was discovered that silicone of industrial quality was used in the implants. It should have been constructed from material of medical grade quality, which has been passed by safety tests that ensure it can be used in a human body.

The fiasco began in 2002 when a surgeon informed the MHRA about a patient whose PIP implants had both ruptured within two years. Between 2003 and 2010, the MHRA lodged over twenty letters with PIP about the malfunctioning of the implants. By March 2010, PIP implants were no longer authorised because of the use of an untested filler. A test later in the year revealed that any filler currently in use could do no harm.

Between 2011 and 2012 there was some divergence over the safety of the breast implants. The French government made a recommendation that any woman with a PIP breast implant should have the implant removed as a protective measure. The following year the MHRA said there was no necessity to remove implants as a matter of emergency,
In the New Year a committee decided that the NHS was prepared to take out and replace PIP implants if any woman showed an interest in this option.

The report further stated that the PIP manufacturer had deliberately acted in a fraudulent manner and in March the Health Committee in the Commons blamed the government for taking such a low profile stance on the issue.

Lord Howe considered that there is no significant evidence that there was any failure on behalf of the MHRA or the Department of Health but the MHRA needs to take a serious look at the methods it uses to gather evidence so that there can be early identification of any ensuing problems. Communication with the public needs improvement as well.

Approximately 47,000 women throughout Britain have had PIP breast implants. About 95% were privately fitted. A small number of the operations were performed by the NHS, most of them being for breast reconstruction after cancer.