NEWS

Official: France's health insurance agency to file complaint in breast implant scandal

12/24/2011 09:59 EST | Updated 02/23/2012 05:12 EST
PARIS - France's national health insurance agency will file a criminal complaint in a breast implant scandal, an official said Saturday, after authorities recommended that women with potentially faulty implants have them removed and agreed to pay for the procedure.

The Caisse nationale d'assurance maladie will file the complaint for deception and fraud in the coming days, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity citing policy. It will not name specific people or the company behind the implants, though specific targets could be added later.

The financial burden of the French government's decision to pay for implant removals falls to the state health system, which estimated the removals could cost €60 million ($78 million) at a time when the country is teetering on the brink of another recession and struggling with debt.

The implants, made by now-defunct French company Poly Implant Prothese, were pulled from the market last year in countries around Europe and South America.

But safety fears have grown and stirred a public furor over the past week, when women marched in Paris and governments spoke out about the implants, which could rupture and leak cheap, industrial-grade silicone into the body.

PIP's website said it exported to more than 60 countries and was one of the world's leading implant makers. The silicone-gel implants in question are not sold in the U.S.

France went the furthest, recommending Friday that the estimated 30,000 women in France with the implants get them removed at the state's expense after more than 1,000 ruptures.

Health Minister Xavier Bertrand insisted the removals would be "preventive" and not urgent, and French health authorities said they had found nothing to link the implants to nine cases of cancer in women. The death last month of a woman who had the implants and developed a rare cancer — anaplastic large-cell lymphoma — had catalyzed worries.

On Saturday, Bertrand said that those responsible for the implants must "answer for their acts."

"They were looking to make money, that's the worst thing, on the back of the health of women," he told Europe 1 radio.

France's health safety agency says the PIP implants appear to be more rupture-prone than other types. Also, investigators say PIP used industrial silicone instead of the medical variety to save money. However, the medical risks posed by industrial silicone are unclear.

Much attention has focused on the director of the company, Jean-Claude Mas, after it was discovered that he is on Interpol's most-wanted list.

But the international policy agency clarified Saturday that its "red notice" was issued in June at the request of Costa Rica, where he faces a drunken driving charge.

"Interpol has never launched an 'international manhunt' for Mr Jean-Claude Mas for the above charge or any other charge," the agency said in a statement.

The agency said the notice was like "thousands of others" in which a member-country asks Interpol to alert other countries that a given person is wanted for arrest.

After the French decision, Britain's Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency announced that it doesn't see enough proof of cancer or an excessive risk of rupture to recommend women in Britain have the implants removed.

Medical authorities in Brazil said it would be premature to recommend removal and officials in Argentina and Venezuela called closer monitoring of women who have the implants.

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Associated Press writers Angela Charlton in Paris, Jill Lawless in London, Juliana Barbassa in Rio de Janeiro and Ian James in Venezuela contributed to this report.

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