Silicone Implants Backed by FDA Panel

Marc Kaufman, Washington Post: April 14, 2005

A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel recommended yesterday that silicone gel breast implants made by Mentor Corp. be allowed back on the market for wider use — a surprise decision that came a day after the same panel rejected the application of a rival company.

Mentor officials were delighted by the panel vote.

In explaining their decision, several panel members said they were more impressed by Mentor’s data on how and why implants rupture and by the lower rupture rate of its implants. While Inamed reported a yearly ruptue rate of about 1.4 percent, the yearly Mentor rate was 0.2 percent — a figure that had been questioned by FDA reviewers.

The panel decision was sharply questioned by Inamed officials, who had been criticized the day before for not having sufficiently long-term data.

“Inamed views today’s panel decision as curious and inconsistent with the decision reached by the panel yesterday on Inamed’s [application] — we look forward to working with Dr. [Lester M.] Crawford and FDA staff on addressing these inconsistencies,” Inamed president and chief executive Nicholas L. Teti said in a statement.

About 260,000 American women had their breasts enlarged with implants last year, and an additional 60,000 had received them after surgery for breast cancer.

Because of health concerns, the FDA in recent years has allowed silicone gel implants to be used only in women who had mastectomies and in some who take part in clinical trials; all others received implants filled with a saline solution. Many women say the silicone gel looks and feels more natural, and it is widely used in other parts of the world.

The panel’s decision was also criticized by some public interest groups, which have long argued that the potential dangers of silicone gel implants remain insufficiently studied.

“I think this was a triumph of wishful thinking which overruled the lack of science,” said Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Center for Policy Research for Women and Families. “Because of all the conditions, it’s far from a done deal regarding the FDA. It’s not helpful to women to have a product approved on the basis of two years of safety data.”

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