A plastic surgeon holds a defective silicone gel breast implant manufactured by French company Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) after he removed it from a patient in a clinic in Nice on December 21. (Reuters)
Paris, Dec. 23 (Reuters): The French government urged 30,000 women in France today to seek removal of defective breast implants that a now-defunct company exported worldwide but it said there was no evidence that the product raised the risk of cancer.
The case has received international attention because the company, Poly Implant Prothese SA (PIP), exported hundreds of thousands of the implants before officials shut it down in March 2010.
As many as 300,000 women worldwide may have received PIP implants, which were exported to Latin American countries such as Brazil and Argentina, and Western European markets such as Britain, Germany, Spain and Italy.
Health officials in those countries have been seeking to calm anxieties, which have been rising amid claims of a link between the implants and cancer. Britain said on Friday it was not following the French recommendation and played down any cancer risks.
The fears were heightened last month after a French woman whose implant had ruptured died from a rare cancer called anaplastic large-cell lymphoma, the eighth woman with an implant manufactured by the company to have died of cancer.
The French government said public health care funds would be used to finance the removals, which were recommended because of the risk of ruptures that could cause inflammation and irritation, at a cost which health officials estimated at 60 million euros.
Around 30,000 women in France have had breast implants made by PIP, which is accused of using industrial-grade silicone normally used in anything from computers to cookware.
PIP, founded by one-time butcher Jean-Claude Mas, produced about 100,000 implants a year before its products were ordered off the market in early 2010.
A French health ministry statement said advice from medical experts showed that: There is as of now no increased risk of cancer for women using implants of the PIP brand versus other implants.
The statement addressed to French women said new implants would be paid from public funds in cases where the initial implant was inserted for medical reasons, typically for reconstruction after breast cancer treatments.
Associations representing women with PIP implants have been demanding that all replacements, including cases of implants that were purely cosmetic, be publicly funded.
This announcement is just a smokescreen and the victims of PIP are angry, said Alexandra Blachere, head of the association of PIP implant users in France. PIP implants are dangerous even excluding cancer. The state cant simply order them to be removed and then leave women to get by afterwards.
Philippe Courtois, a lawyer for a French association of PIP implant users, gave a cautious welcome to Fridays government announcement, saying: Its a common sense decision even if it unfortunately comes a bit late.
PIP was placed into liquidation in March 2010 with losses of 9 million euros after the French medical safety agency, AFSSAPS, recalled its implants when surgeons reported abnormally high rupture rates.
During a subsequent inspection of its manufacturing site, officials found PIP was using a type of silicone that was not approved by health authorities, but was about 10 times cheaper.
An investigation found a majority of implants made by PIP since 2001 contained the unapproved gel.
A spokesman for the German company TUV Rheinland, which provided quality certification of PIPs production facilities until March 2010, said its remit was to check the production process not the content of the silicone.