One in three patients develop fibromyalgia after a surgical mesh implant, warns patient support group

Slling The Mesh survey shows 1 in three deelop fibromyalgia after a mesh implant

Slling The Mesh survey shows 1 in three deelop fibromyalgia after a mesh implant - Credit: Archant

One in three people who have had a surgical mesh implant to treat incontinence, prolapse or hernia go on to develop fibromyalgia according to a patient survey.

Sling The Mesh was launched in June 2015 to support patients harmed by mesh implants. In 2017 it has

Sling The Mesh was launched in June 2015 to support patients harmed by mesh implants. In 2017 it has almost 3,000 members. PHOTO: Kath Sansom - Credit: Archant

Sling The Mesh support group ran a poll which revealed that 54 out of 187 people developed diagnosed fibromyalgia following a polypropylene plastic implant - 29 per cent.

The number suffering fibromyalgia in the general population is 4.7 per cent according to a UK charity which this week runs an awareness campaign into the painful condition.

A study in the BMJ shows the number suffering in the general population is 5.4 per cent.

A Sling The Mesh spokesman said: “Our survey shows the incidence of fibromyalgia in mesh patients is around six times higher than what you would expect in the general population.

“In mesh support groups globally we see people talking of the debilitating effects of this auto immune condition which is why we decided to nail down some figures.

“In addition to those with a diagnosis a further 51 said they had many of the symptoms but had not yet received a formal diagnosis - 27.2 per cent.

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“There were also 40 who have developed inflammatory arthritis, one in five people.”

The survey flies in the face of a report published earlier this year by an American surgeon who denied plastic implants can trigger auto immune diseases.

Under a transparency system in America, where medics have to declare conflicts of interest online, the New York surgeon who led the report received industry funding to the tune of $117,423.20 in research and $22,350.85 in general payments in the year leading up to the report being published.

Bilal Chughtai, lead author of the May 2017 study, said: “We found no relationship between exposures to vaginal mesh and subsequent development of Systemic Inflammatory and Autoimmune Diseases (SAID)

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“Mesh has been placed under additional scrutiny with concerns on consumer world wide web sites about the association of mesh and the subsequent development of systemic autoimmune diseases.

“There is growing uncertainty among patients regarding the long-term safety of these procedures, which have been associated with high success rates.” he said.

Animal studies have shown mesh causes inflammation, foreign body reaction, and fibrosis, he said, and patient support groups are reporting autoimmune disorders such as lupus, fibromyalgia, and rheumatoid arthritis.

However, he denied a theory that chronic foreign body response leads to oxidisation which causes degradation of polypropylene as written about in a study of explanted mesh led by Professor Iakovlev.“The process of mesh degradation has not been confirmed in human beings and remains controversial,” he said.

“The occurrences of SAID may be events unrelated to the preceding mesh placement.

“Vaginal mesh has been used safely for decades, and synthetic slings for stress urinary incontinence are considered the gold standard.”

Journalist Ed Silverman wrote in the BMJ in 2013 that the open payment declaration system in America was: “Expected to usher in a new era of transparency regarding the financial relationships between doctors and the makers of drugs and devices.”

Payment could include consulting and speaking fees, meals, gifts, and research funding with concerns that such financial dealings could: “unduly influence medical practice and research,” he wrote.

“Even small financial ties have been shown in various studies to bias physicians,” he added.

• Silverman is founder and editor of the Pharmalot blog and has covered the pharmaceutical industry for more than 20 years.

Fibromylagia Action UK said: “Gone are the days when GPs told us that there was no such thing as fibromyalgia and that it was all in our heads. The NHS now accepts fibromyalgia as a ‘real’ chronic illness.” Visit their website for information.

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