On August 20th, 2020, the Bayer pharmaceutical company announced in a statement that it will pay roughly $1.6 billion to settle nearly 39,000 lawsuits filed against it by American women who alleged harm from its permanent birth control device Essure.
According to the statement, Bayer “has reached agreements with plaintiff law firms to resolve approximately 90% of the nearly 39,000 total filed and unfiled U.S. Essure™ claims involving women who allege device-related injuries.” Notably, the statement also read, “Settling claimants will be required to dismiss their cases or not file. There is no admission of wrongdoing or liability by Bayer in the settlement agreements.” (emphasis added)
Essure first came on the market in 2002 after receiving FDA approval as a female sterilization device that required no surgery, unlike a tubal ligation or a hysterectomy. However, Live Action News previously reported that the FDA’s approval was based solely on “evidence pertaining to short-term effects and without adequate followup once it was on the market.”
Essure, two tiny metallic coils inserted vaginally and implanted into the fallopian tubes, would cause inflammation and then significant scarring by design. That scar tissue was intended to prevent pregnancy by inhibiting sperm from reaching an egg. The FDA noted on its website that risks to women using Essure included “abdominal, pelvic, or back pain, tear or hole (perforation) of the uterus or fallopian tubes, unintended pregnancy, allergy or hypersensitivity reactions” and even an ability to “unexpectedly move to the abdominal or pelvic cavity.”
According to Natural Womanhood, “During its 16 years on the market, Essure harmed women so badly that in 2018 the FDA required prescribers to provide patients with 22 pages of informed consent information about its risks.”
In 2011, a woman who had been injured by Essure launched Essure Problems on Facebook, which eventually amassed nearly 43,000 followers chronicling their horror stories from the device. A Cincinnati Enquirer article noted that “contingents of Essure opponents traveled several times a year to Washington to lobby the FDA and Congress about the device” until it was finally removed from the market in 2018. By that time, some 750,000 devices had reportedly been implanted.
While Bayer claimed that “the decision (to discontinue distribution of Essure) was based on a decline in sales of Essure™ in recent years and the conclusion that the Essure™ business was no longer sustainable,” Natural Womanhood noted that the decision was announced just one week before a damning documentary was to be released on Netflix sharing the experiences of multiple women “all severely affected by Essure.”
Women who experienced damage because of Essure have been treated unfairly. As the Cincinnati Enquirer noted, “For comparison, two months before Bayer made the $1.6 billion settlement to the Essure patients, the company offered $10 billion to settle all claims against its weed killer Roundup.” According to Fortune.com, the $10 billion payout was intended to settle between 50,000 and 85,000 lawsuits. That’s roughly $118,000-$200,000 payout per lawsuit. In contrast, 35,100 Essure claims (90% of the 39,000 per Bayer’s statement above) received a payout of approximately $41,000 per lawsuit. Women deserve better.
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