Corporate Action Network, a consumer advocacy group that is “founded to address the imbalance of power between corporations and people,” says that U.S. attorney general Eric Holder Jr. should investigate the destroyed documents in the J&J transvaginal mesh litigation. Previously, Magistrate Judge Cheryl Eifert of the U.S. District Court for Southern West Virginia said that & Johnson subsidiary Ethicon’s loss or destruction of documents was “negligent”. The group, however, believes it may have been more than that. Mass Device reports that Corporate Action Network made the request to Holder in an open letter this week.
Eifert had also previously determined that “plaintiffs are entitled to monetary sanctions to compensate them for the additional time spent by their counsel piecing together missing custodial files and preparing for depositions of key employees for whom scant information was provided by Ethicon. In addition, the undersigned recommends to the presiding district judge that plaintiffs be permitted on a case-by-case basis to introduce evidence of spoliation at trial, when appropriate, and seek an adverse instruction in specific cases,”
There are thousands of lawsuits alleging that transvaginal mesh caused serious injuries, including mesh erosion through the vagina (also called exposure, extrusion, or protrusion), pain, infection, bleeding, pain during sexual intercourse, organ perforation and urinary problems. The devices are used to treat pelvic organ prolapse and stress urinary incontinence.
Johnson & Johnson is one of many device makers facing pelvic mesh litigation. C.R. Bard, Boston Scientific, Endo Health Solutions, Cook Medical and Coloplast are also being sued over the devices.
Holder should harness the U.S. Justice Department’s subpoena powers to investigate CEO and chairman Alex Gorsky, Corporate Action Network said. Gorsky oversaw Ethicon at the time when the documents were destroyed. “We respectfully request that you investigate Johnson & Johnson Inc. and its top executives including chairman and CEO, Alex Gorsky, for 2 possible criminal violations.”
The group also noted Dr. Vincent Lucente, a doctor who reportedly received $800,000 over 10 years as a consultant for J&J. Recently, it was revealed in corresponding emails that Lucente allegedly used his influence to remove the term “experimental” in describing transvaginal mesh in a medical trade publication by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
In 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that complications associated with pelvic mesh are “not rare”. The agency also said that pelvic mesh may be more harmful compared to other methods for treating pelvic organ prolapse.