03/06/2013 06:36 EST | Updated 05/06/2013 05:12 EDT

3 Saskatchewan women make website on surgical mesh to inform other sufferers

SASKATOON - Three Saskatchewan women have started a website to inform women of the problems with implanted surgical mesh and to support those who are suffering from complications.

Two years ago, Health Canada wrote to the chiefs of medical staff across the country to advise them of the complications women were having after surgical mesh inserted in their vaginas.

The procedure is done to help with urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse — a condition where tissue holding pelvic organs in place becomes weak or stretched and the organs bulge into the vagina.

But the three women say the meshes have failed and are poking into other organs, and have asked the Saskatchewan government to pay for its removal in the U.S.

The women say there's one qualified physician in the U.S. who can remove all of the mesh tape in one procedure, whereas in Canada, the removal of the tape involves multiple surgeries and even then, not all will be removed.

Marika English, who borrowed $30,000 to pay for the surgery after being denied coverage by the province, says she is much better now.

The three started the website to let other women know they are not suffering alone.

"Women are basically left to their own devices, and suffer in silence at home," English said.

"The three of us just found each other on the Internet. We've had other people call us. We made our own website to get information out to women and to connect to Saskatchewan women because I knew the feeling what it was like when I had this and I thought I was all alone. It was terrible."

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a public health notification about serious complications associated with the mesh in October 2008.

According to the FDA's website, from 2008 to 2010 the most frequent complications included mesh erosion through the vagina, pain, infection, bleeding, pain during sexual intercourse, organ perforation and urinary problems.

"Mesh erosion can require multiple surgeries to repair and can be debilitating for some women. In some cases, even multiple surgeries will not resolve the complication,'' it said.

Lawsuits have been filed on both sides of the border over use of the mesh.

Last month, a jury in New Jersey ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay punitive damages of $7.76 million to a former nurse who blames its vaginal mesh implant for years of "living hell'' despite unsuccessful repair surgeries.

The award adds to the $3.35 million in compensatory damages awarded by the state Superior Court jury, for a total of $11.1 million in damages.

It's the first verdict in about 4,000 lawsuits filed against the giant health products maker based in New Brunswick, N.J.

Johnson & Johnson said the decision isn't supported by the evidence and says it will appeal.

The company's Ethicon surgical products subsidiary sold its Prolift brand of implants from 2005 until 2012, when it pulled them from the market amid mounting lawsuits.

(CJWW, The Canadian Press)