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Boston Scientific besieged by lawsuits over gynecological mesh implants amid 60 Minutes report

This marks the biggest litigation movement since lawsuits against asbestos manufacturers
Gavel and legal book
More than 100,000 women claim that the implants caused life-altering pain and injury

As many as 48,000 lawsuits from more than 100,000 women have been lodged against Boston Scientific (NYSE:BSX), a US medical-device manufacturer, over its plastic gynecological mesh implants which are alleged to cause “life-altering” pain and injury, according to a 60 Minutes report Sunday night.

The number of lawsuits involved make the effort on the part of these women, the largest litigation movement since lawsuits were taken out against asbestos manufacturers in the 1990s.

Mesh comprised of polypropylene used in packaging

Surgeons employ the gynecological mesh in a way similar to a sling to relieve urinary incontinence and to lift organs that shift after pregnancy.

But thousands of women report suffering shooting pains and feeling as if sandpaper is inside of them post the implant of the mesh, which is designed to be permanent.

“It felt like the material was pulling on the muscles and I’d get shooting pains you almost felt like there was something inside of you that was like sandpaper back and forth, every time you’d walk,” one woman told "60 Minutes."

Doctor Michael Margolis, a witness in the lawsuits against Boston Scientific, said the width of the implants he removed had shrunk by as much as 50% and they were covered in scar tissue.

The mesh is comprised of a plastic called polypropylene, which is used in packaging.

Boston Scientific originally got the go-ahead from the US Food and Drug Administration to use Marlex, a brand of polypropylene made by a unit of Chevron Phillips. But after being concerned about the idea that Marlex was being used for medical purposes, Chevron Phillips refused to supply Boston Scientific with it. The plastic most recently used in the mesh stems from a broker in China and is not safe for human use. 

Rick Wise, an analyst with the broker and investment banking house Stifel, called the 60 Minutes report "unsettling...but likely overstated," in a research note to investors first obtained by the Fly, the business news site.

Wise pointed out that Boston Scientific has either reached or is near a settlement on 47,500 of the known 49,500 mesh legal claims and has a US$1.5bn reserve in place for related litigation. The company expects most of the remaining mesh claims to be resolved this year.

Boston Scientific shares were flat at US$30.08 in early trade.

-- Updated with Stifel analyst comment and revised share price

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