Germany, UK weigh in on French breast implant concern

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Story highlights

  • German medical groups back the removal of breast implants made by a French company
  • England's National Health Service agrees to pay to remove some implants
  • But the NHS says routine removal is not necessary
  • Implants made by PIP may rupture, causing problems like inflammation, health groups say

German medical groups joined the French health ministry Friday in recommending that women seek removal of breast implants made by a French company, saying they need not hurry but the devices could pose eventual health problems.

England's National Health Service also weighed in Friday, stopping short of recommending routine removal of implants made by Poly Implant Prostheses, or PIP, but agreeing to pay to have them taken out in some cases.

French authorities announced last month that the government would pay for the removal of the bankrupt company's implants, which a British medical group says were made from "non-medical grade silicone believed by the manufacturers to be made for mattresses."

Authorities in France and England have dismissed fears of cancer from the implants, but have said the devices are prone to rupture and could cause inflammation, scarring and fibrosis.

More than 500 French women have had the implants removed since last year, according to the French government agency that evaluates the safety of medical products. Since then, more than 1,000 implants have ruptured, the agency said.

Germany, UK weigh in on implant concern
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German medical groups representing plastic surgeons, breast care specialists and gynecologists said Friday that while the implants do not pose any immediate health threat, they raise the risk of ruptures, difficulties with breast imaging and other complications.

"We recommend removal without hurry, just as the French expert commission has recommended," the groups said in a joint release.

In Britain, David Nicholson, chief executive of the National Health Service, said an advisory medical group found there was no evidence to support routine removal of the implants or suggestions that they could increase the risk of cancer.

"However, the group also acknowledges that many of the implants are made up of non-medical grade silicone and should not have been implanted in women in the first place," Nicholson said in a letter to medical workers released Friday.

Nicholson said the government would pay to have the implants removed from women who received them as part of reconstructive care provided by the publicly funded National Health Service.

Women who paid for cosmetic implants from private clinics would not be eligible for government funded care in most cases, the NHS said. But Nicholson said he hoped private practitioners would also pay for the removal of implants if patients request it.

"We want the private sector to offer the same service to its patients as the NHS is offering and we are working with them to best ensure an equivalent model of care is provided," he said.

An estimated 300,000 women in 65 countries received breast implants from the company. The implants were banned in 2010 and the company went bankrupt later that year.

The implants are not approved for use in the United States.

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