Under pressure from women suffering from breast implant-related cancer and other illnesses, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday proposed that manufacturers add tougher warnings and a patient decision checklist.
“We’ve heard loud and clear from the public advisory panel meeting we held earlier this year ... that there is a distinct opportunity to do more to protect women who are considering breast implants,” FDA officials said in a statement.
Coincidentally, the FDA proposal came on the heels of a statement from a Facebook-based advocacy group devoted to women with the uncommon cancer, a lymphoma that researchers agree is caused by textured implants.
“We have 34 women dead, and sadly there will be more deaths as accurate diagnostic criteria is still lagging,” Breast Implant Lymphoma Advocates emailed to reporters on Tuesday with the statement, also posted on its Facebook page.
In an interview, Terri McGregor and Jamee Cook, co-founders of the group, commended the FDA for taking steps they have been urging for three years. They also called on regulators and manufacturers to withdraw all textured implants.
“From a patient perspective, I’m having chemotherapy, and I’m suffering,” said McGregor, 54, of Ontario, who is being treated for a secondary cancer that is a complication of her previous treatment for metastatic implant lymphoma. “We are asking any manufacturer with a lymphoma patient to remove that product from the market. We’re asking manufacturers to do the right thing. Do we have to wait until they have a certain number of sick women?”
More than 700 women worldwide have been diagnosed with the immune system cancer, which was first recognized in 1997 and is now called breast implant-associated anaplastic large-cell lymphoma. If diagnosed early, it can be cured by removing the implant and surrounding scar capsule, but the Facebook group is full of stories of struggles to get the correct diagnosis and appropriate surgery.
However, textured implants marketed in the United States by Sientra and Mentor, as well as textured products not sold in the U.S., also have caused the lymphoma.
The FDA’s proposal is published in the Federal Register and invites public feedback. Such “draft guidance for industry” usually takes years to become final.
Among the changes the FDA draft recommends:
“Although the FDA doesn’t move as fast as we want," said Cook, 41, of Dallas, "these are positive moves, and it’s encouraging to our patient community that some action is happening.”
The advocates’ statement calls for more efforts to track, research — and stop minimizing — the lymphoma. The four-page document is signed by six leaders and includes links to the latest research presented this month in Rome at the first international conference on the disease.