I am the public health research director of the Cancer Prevention and Treatment Fund, a nonprofit center that uses research findings to improve prevention and treatment strategies. Our nonprofit does not accept money from pharmaceutical or device companies so I have no conflicts of interest.
My perspective today is as someone trained in public health at Johns Hopkins and previously worked at the National Cancer Institute. I am very familiar with clinical trials and research methodology.
You have already discussed how poor the follow-up was on the implant studies. I was disappointed that an FDA official implied yesterday that most of the post-market studies were fine, and only a few were not.
I completely disagree. It was not just the Mentor large study that was so outrageous after only 3 years, and Allergan barely kept half their augmentation patients after only two years.
The Adjunct studies were even worse – only 16-23% of the women were still in the studies after 5 years. The Core Studies were slightly better, but Mentor had only 58% of their patients at 8 years, and that is not acceptable in any of the places where I have conducted research.
Our nonprofit has talked to many women who have had serious problems with their breast implants, and I am talking about recent patients, not patients from 20 years ago. But, many of these patients have already missed work because of their illness and couldn’t take the time to be here this week. Some told us that their kids are going back to school this week, and they need to be there. Others didn’t even hear about this meeting in advance – it wasn’t exactly highly publicized to the general public.
But history should be our guide. We know that most new breast implants seemed great at first. It isn’t until years later that it becomes obvious that the “newer safer breast implants” also break and leak and cause problems. So, it may take a few years to get a better idea about the safety of the “new cohesive gel implants” but we already know after yesterday’s testimony and from talking to many other patients that these new implants can bleed silicone into the scar capsule even when the implant is intact. And even the new implants can break.
I also want to correct some misconceptions that were reflected in yesterday’s panel discussion. The large studies done by Allergan and Mentor are not asking women to come to the plastic surgeon’s office every year. Most years, they are asking women to fill out a questionnaire, which they can do online at home. I have seen copies of these questionnaires and they are much too long. By the time women get to the questions about their symptoms on page 22 of the Allergan questionnaire, for example, they will have already answered questions about 20 connective tissue diseases, many of which they never heard of and can’t pronounce, such as eosinophilic fasciitis. They will also have answered the same 20 questions about each of their children. I have to assume that by the time they get to page 22 to answer questions about symptoms they might actually have, they are in no mood to answer the question about “dilated red blood vessels under the skin surface that appear as red marks, especially on the face, hands, and lips.” Given these questions, I think it is very unfair to blame the low response rate on the patients.
Similarly, Mentor patients have told us that the symptoms listed on their questionnaire were often confusing and difficult to answer.
I have one more thing to add. The first 2 years of the Allergan and Mentor Core studies showed that self-esteem on the Rosenberg Self-esteem scale went down in most patients with implants, and that symptoms of connective tissue diseases went up. Those data were reported at previous FDA Advisory Committee meetings. But, those data are missing from the analyses that the FDA has reported for the 8-year and 10-year Core study follow-ups. I ask the FDA to explain why.
Thank you for your time.