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Latest stage in potential legal action over breast implants

Letter before action to be sent in legal battle over textured breast implants

1 July 2019

Letters of claim will be issued this week by law firm Leigh Day on behalf of women who claim they were not warned of the potential dangers before having Allergan Biocell textured implants, linked to a rare form of cancer called anaplastic large cell lymphoma, BIA-ALCL.

Leigh Day are handling enquires from over 350 women who have the Allergan Biocell textured implants. Eleven of the women represented by Leigh Day have developed BIA-ALCL.

The letters are being sent to the manufacturer and clinics who supplied the implants notifying the potential defendants of the claim and that the women are seeking recovery of the cost of removal of the implants and compensation for the personal injury, distress and any consequent financial loss.

This will be the first legal action in the UK by women who have BIA-ALCL and those who claim they were not properly warned about the risks from the implants.

The Sunday Express yesterday reported that a link between the implants and BIA-ALCL was known more than a decade ago, however the breast implants were only withdrawn from the market last December.

According to the Express a 16 year ‘benchmark’ study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in November 2008 uncovered ‘an association’ between cosmetic breast implants and BIA-ALCL.

In 2016 the link was formally classified by the World Health Organisation and BIA-ALCL classified as a disease. Textured implants were finally withdrawn from sale in Europe after France’s national agency for the safety of medicines and health products (ANSM) said it was suspending safety approval.

It means the implants cannot be manufactured or sold in Europe. The ANSM also advised surgeons to stop using them. According to the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) the risk of developing ALCL linked to breast implants is 1 in 24,000.

However, experts say the MHRA figure is likely to be an underestimate. This is because the watchdog does not monitor all women who have had the procedure.

Zahra Nanji from law firm Leigh Day who is representing the women said:

“It seems that the links between these types of implant and this rare cancer were known about for many years before the implant was withdrawn, alarm bells should have gone off much earlier. I would stress that the risk of developing this type of cancer is low, however, it is also an entirely avoidable type of cancer – in that it is caused by implants that are mostly used for cosmetic reasons.

“Given the seriousness of this cancer and the fact this was a cosmetic procedure it is a scandal that these types of implants have been used for so long.”

One of the women represented by Leigh Day, Irene Kennedy, 49, a nanny from Leeds, was diagnosed with ALCL in her left breast last December, eight years after getting her implants in March 2011. Irene has had her implants and surrounding scar tissue removed, which normally leads to a full recovery without the need for chemotherapy.

She told the Express: “It really makes me cross that they knew of the risk so long ago. I realise no one forced me to have the implants but I feel as if I have been used as a guinea pig.

“If I hadn’t gone to get my swollen breast checked it could have been too late and there is still a chance cancer cells have gone astray and these can spread.”

The cancer, which forms in the scar capsule around the implant, normally begins with pain and swelling in the breast. Women who have the implants and capsules removed can make a full recovery, but if left untreated the disease can spread throughout the body and become fatal.

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