Fears Over French Breast Implants Spread Worldwide
December 24, 2011

Fears Over French Breast Implants Spread Worldwide

Concern over substandard breast implants manufactured by a now-defunct French firm and made from industrial silicone has begun to spread around the world, while the French and British governments found themselves at odds with the extent of the problem and the best way to deal with it.

According to Kate Kelland and Daniel Flynn of Reuters, fears about the implants -- which had been manufactured by Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) and created from a cheaper type of silicone usually used for electronics and computer parts -- have spread throughout Europe, as well as to Australia and South America.

PIP was shut down in 2010, but not before an estimated 300,000 of the implants in question were used in cosmetic surgery Kelland and Flynn reported Friday. The silicone used in those implants was not approved medical use by healthcare officials, but was industrial-grade material that was available for approximately one-tenth of the price of medical-grade silicone.

Alexandra Blachere, the head of a French PIP implant patient group, told Reuters that there could be up to 400,000 potential victims globally. Blachere added that women from Italy and Spain had already been in contact with her organization, and that she had seen reports emanating from Brazil, Venezuela, and in other locations around the world.

In a separate report, Brian Love and Daniel Flynn said that French government officials have urged 30,000 women in that country to have the implants removed, due to the likelihood that they "could rupture and cause inflammation and irritation," though they noted that there was no established link that they could increase a woman's chance to contract breast cancer.

However, in the UK, Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies said that the up to 40,000 British women who received the PIP implants "should not be unduly worried."

"We have no evidence of a link to cancer or an increased risk of rupture. If women are concerned they should speak to their surgeon," adding that removing the implants "carries risks in itself."

"I do think that every woman who has these implants should go and get checked ... It's better to have them replaced than to worry about them rupturing," British woman Pat Demetriou, who had faulty PIP implants removed in 2010, told Love and Flynn.

According to Angela Charlton of the Associated Press (AP), the French government has offered to pay medical costs for any of the women who are interested in having the implants removed.

Conversely, British health officials, citing the lack of any link between the implants and breast cancer, have said that they will only cover costs of implants that had already ruptured, Telegraph Health Editor Rebecca Smith wrote Friday. Those seeking the removal of the implants as a preventative measure will have to foot the bill themselves.

"At the moment we are in a position where we have no evidence of a link to cancer," Health Secretary Andrew Lansley told BBC News. "We have no evidence of toxicity, we have no evidence of substantial difference in terms of ruptures of these implants compared to others“¦ So we don't have a safety concern that would be the basis for the routine removal of these implants."

The British news agency also cited a statement from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) which said that they recognized that women had concerns over the PIP implants, but that their agency currently had "no evidence of any increase in incidence of cancer associated with these implants and no evidence of any disproportionate rupture rates other than in France."

They also said that the rupture rate in the UK was 1%, compared to 5% in France.

In related news, PIP founder Jean-Claude Mas is now reportedly a wanted man. The 72-year-old man, who allegedly was a former butcher, according to media reports, was featured in a "red notice" on the Interpol website. According to Reuters, Mas is wanted for "life and health" offenses in Costa Rica.

Earlier this week, AFP's Olivier Thibault reported that an estimated 2,000 women had filed police complains and a criminal investigation had been launched into the entire affair.


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