All posts by BIeditor

FDA considers black box warning for all breast implants

Mariel Carbone, WCPO Cincinnati: February 09, 2020


Although many other survivors choose implants after their mastectomies, [Lily McBreen is] adamant that she won’t. Having almost lost her life once, she’s worried the side effects of receiving breast implants could endanger it again.

[…]

“I wanted to avoid the rheumatological symptoms that have been out in the news for so many decades,” she said. “There has been so many accounts of women complaining of problems with them.”

Those symptoms, which women are calling “breast implant illness,” are among the many reasons the United States Food and Drug Administration could soon take extreme measures when it comes to educating the public about implants.

[…]

Currently, the black box warning exists only as a draft while the FDA continues to consider its implementation.

The draft warning outlines three main concerns.

First, “breast implants are not considered life time devices” and women may require more surgery if complications occur.

It also states that implants have been associated with BIA-ALCL.

[…]

Finally, it describes how some patients have reported a variety of symptoms, including “joint paint, muscle aches, confusion, chronic fatigue, autoimmune disease and others.”

The FDA is also proposing a patient decision checklist, which would include situations in which the device should not be used, considerations for a successful breast implant candidate, risks of surgery, the importance of using an appropriate physician, the risk of BIA-ALCL and other symptoms and discussion of other options.

Still, some have said these proposals don’t go far enough, including Diana Zuckerman who is President of the National Center for Health Research. The center initiated the Breast Implant Working Group, which is made up of six experts including patient advocates and plastic surgeons.

“The FDA’s draft Black Box warning is too vaguely worded on BIA-ALCL and breast implant illness, and includes jargon that will not be understood by all patients,” the working group said in a statement. “The FDA draft Black Box states that ‘breast implants have been associated with the development of a cancer of the immune system called breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL).’ Association implies correlation rather than causation. In fact, the evidence is clear that breast implants can cause BIA-ALCL.”

Read the original story here.

No Shortage of Controversies for New FDA Commissioner

Thomas M. Burton, The Wall Street Journal: January 29, 2020


New Food and Drug Administration commissioner Stephen M. Hahn rises at 4 a.m. each day for an hour of intensive strength and stamina training. On stressful days, he fits a second workout in during the late afternoon.

Dr. Hahn, 60, takes over an FDA under fire for failing to adequately respond to the health threat from growing use of e-cigarettes and vaping products. This spring, he and the agency will face applications from e-cigarette companies and have to decide what e-cigarette products can qualify to stay on the market.

[…]

Dr. Hahn also faces thorny decisions on stem-cell research and use of cannabidiol, or CBD, that will likely put him in the hot seat between rival advocacy groups.

The man taking on these challenges comes to the FDA with a sterling reputation in medicine and management, but with no previous government experience, unlike his predecessor Scott Gottlieb. That has some concerned about his ability to tackle the issues ahead.

“Always we have concerns when someone comes in who doesn’t know the FDA, which is a complex organization,” said Diana Zuckerman, president of the public-interest research group National Center for Health Research in Washington.  “I never think it’s a good idea.”

What’s more, Dr. Hahn may not have long to make his mark if Mr. Trump fails to win re-election Nov. 3. “It’s a hard thing to come in with so little time [in the president’s term] and so little government experience,” said a former FDA commissioner, Robert Califf, who served under President Obama. “It’s so difficult to change policy with so little time.”

Dr. Hahn didn’t immediately comment for this article.

[…]

Read the original story here.

Breast Implant Working Group’s Comments on FDA’s Draft Guidance to Improve Patient Communication on Breast Implants

Scot Glasberg, MD,  Diana Zuckerman, PhD, Alan Matarasso, MD, Karuna Jagger, Raylene Hollrah, Jamee Cook, and Maria Gmitro, December 23, 2019


Download the comment here.

Comment to the FDA Docket on the FDA’s Draft Guidance to Improve Patient Communication on Breast Implants

A Working Group comprised of two former presidents of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the president of a national research center, and four nationally respected patient advocates came together to find common ground regarding the risks of breast implants.   As individuals (Dr. Scot Glasberg, Dr. Alan Matarasso, Dr. Diana Zuckerman, Ms. Karuna Jagger, Ms. Raylene Hollrah, Ms. Jamee Cook, and Ms. Maria Gmitro), we are urging that the FDA require a black box warning and Patient Informed Consent Check List that provides information about the risks of cancer, breast implant illness, and other serious health problems in explicit and easy-to-understand wording that all individuals considering breast implants can understand, regardless of educational level or stress that is inevitable when a person is considering surgery.

Black Box Warning

The FDA’s draft Black Box warning is too vaguely worded on BIA-ALCL and breast implant illness, and includes jargon that will not be understood by all patients.  For example, it should specify that breast implants can cause ALCL, breast implants are not lifetime devices (instead of FDA’s proposed Black Box wording that they are “not considered lifetime devices), replace technical jargon, and be more explicit about the evidence regarding breast implant illness instead of making it sound like it is not a real risk.

The FDA draft Black Box states that “breast implants have been associated with the development of a cancer of the immune system called breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL).”  Association implies correlation rather than causation.  In fact, the evidence is clear that breast implants can cause BIA-ALCL.

The FDA draft says that the rates of BIA-ALCL “are not well defined.”  Although correct, that terminology will not be understood by all patients.  Instead, it should state that the rates “are not known.”

We agree with the FDA draft that it is important to illustrate the seriousness of BIA-ALCL by stating that “Some patients have died from BIA-ALCL.”

The draft Black Box wording regarding symptoms of breast implant illness would be confusing to patients.  It refers to systemic symptoms, which is the correct term, but not one that all patients would understand.  It does not mention breast implant illness, which although not an established medical term, is one that is well understood by patients.  The FDA draft background paper and Black Box warning both state that “some” patients with breast implants “have reported a variety of systemic symptoms,” which implies that the numbers of women with these symptoms is small and that they reported the symptoms but that they haven’t been diagnosed.  That is incorrect.  The wording should be changed to “patients have experienced a variety of symptoms.”  The FDA proposed Black Box statement that “some patients report complete resolution of symptoms” again implies that these improvements are reported but not medically confirmed.

On the contrary, a review of several well-designed studies by De Boer et al. (2017) found that most women with breast implant illness who had their implants removed and not replaced were confirmed by physicians to have complete or substantial improvement in their symptoms and overall health.

In addition, the FDA draft Black Box does not mention the risk of autoimmune/connective tissue diseases.  The Black Box should specify that “several studies suggest that women with silicone gel or saline-filled breast implants have a small but significant increase in their chances of developing certain autoimmune or connective tissue diseases.” That statement is supported by the largest long-term study to date, by Watad et al. (2018), a retrospective analysis of 24,651 women with breast implants (confirmed by medical records) and 98,604 matched women who did not have breast implants. The strongest association with breast implants (OR>1.5, p<0.001) was recorded for Sjögren’s syndrome, systemic sclerosis (scleroderma) and sarcoidosis, based on new medical diagnoses made after the women received breast implants, which were included in medical records during a period of up to 20 years.  In addition, (Coroneos et al. 2019) reported that Allergan’s study of 60% of the almost 50,000 women they enrolled in their study submitted to the FDA, physicians’ diagnoses of their patients two years after their implant surgery found statistically significant increases in fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus compared to the general population.  Although the Mentor data reported in that study are very flawed, the Allergan data, which were provided to the FDA, seem solid.

Patient Informed Consent Checklist

The Breast Implant Working Group created a checklist that was provided to the FDA in October.  This checklist has been endorsed by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the National Center for Health Research, Breast Cancer Action, Our Bodies Ourselves, National Women’s Health Network, Jacobs Institute for Women’s Health, Breast Implant Victims Advocacy, Just Call Me Ray, and Breast Implant Safety Alliance.  It was also supported by more than 77,000 individuals who signed a petition that the Working Group provided to FDA officials on December 9, 2019

We agree with the FDA that the purpose of a patient checklist is to provide information for patients considering breast implants for augmentation or reconstruction, so that they can carefully weigh the risks and benefits of breast implants and make the decision that is right for them. Based on our experience with patients, we urge the FDA to ensure that the checklist is:

  • Brief and easy-to-understand, formatted with information on specific issues that are presented succinctly;
  • Jargon-free. Keep in mind that the average reading level in the U.S. is 6th
  • Organized to focus on the information that patients are less likely to obtain from other sources. It should not start with lengthy sections that are not especially interesting to patients.

Focus and Organization of the Checklist

The goal of the checklist should be to provide the most essential information that patients might not get from standard informed consent forms. It is therefore essential that the checklist provide information that thousands of implant patients have stated they were not warned about.  For that reason, the checklist should not focus on surgical and cosmetic risks, which are the types of risks that all patients are warned about in standard consent forms.  Instead of the almost full page of mostly surgical risks that are listed at the beginning of the FDA’s draft checklist, such risks should be summarized very briefly in one sentence, with the checklist focused on other risks that patients could otherwise not be aware of.  Similarly, cosmetic and local risks should be listed last in the checklist, since that information is more likely to be provided through other means.

The FDA draft checklist starts with “Considerations for a Candidate for Successful Breast Implantation,” cancer risk and a short section on “systemic illness.”  We suggest shorter, more focused headings and information to make the checklist more engaging and easy to read.

Who shouldn’t get breast implants?

The above heading should replace “Considerations for a Candidate for Successful Breast Implantation,’ since that latter heading implies that the patient characteristics listed are the only ones that would reduce the chances of complications or other problems.  In terms of content, the FDA draft wording on who should not get breast implants contains important information but is much too long and includes information that could be summarized.  The goal of the checklist should be to provide the most essential information that patients might not get from standard informed consent forms.  We recommend a short summary regarding active infections, cancer, or wound healing, and the following wording instead:

I understand that the safety of breast implants was never studied for people who have autoimmune symptoms or diseases, or a family history of those diseases. Breast implants may be more likely to cause serious health problems and symptoms for these people.  In addition, breast implants may not be safe for anyone with a weakened immune system or certain genetic risk factors that have not yet been identified.

Risk of Cancer: BIA-ALCL (Breast Implant Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma)

We recommend that the FDA’s draft wording for BIA-ALCL could be improved as follows:

I understand that there is a small risk for me to develop BIA-ALCL, a cancer of the immune system. BIA-ALCL is a type of lymphoma that develops on or around the scar capsule that surrounds the breast implant. I understand that the symptoms of BIA-ALCL include breast swelling, lumps, pain, and asymmetry that develop after surgical incisions are completely healed, usually years after implant surgery.

Treatment for BIA-ALCL includes removal of the implant and scar capsule, and, if not treated early, may include chemotherapy and radiation. This diagnosis and treatment may be at my own expense and is not always covered by insurance. 

Systemic Symptoms:  Breast Implant Illness

As noted earlier, “Breast Implant Illness” should be the term used, since “systemic symptoms” is not a term that all patients would understand.  Also as noted earlier, the FDA draft guidance and draft checklist consistently imply that the number of women reporting symptoms of breast implant illness is small and that there is no research evidence that the symptoms are caused by their implants.  For example, the FDA’s draft wording that “some women report” implies that a small number of women are claiming an illness that isn’t real.  It is more accurate and meaningful to patients to say that several studies support the apparent causal link to breast implant illness symptoms (Watad et al 2017 and Colaris et al. 2017) and to symptom improvement after implants are removed (DeBoer et al. 2017), for example).  It should also state that the largest, long-term studies also indicate a statistically significant increase in certain autoimmune or connective tissue diseases, as summarized on page 2 of this document, citing Watad et al. 2018 and Coroneos et al. 2019). For that reason, ASPS, researchers, women’s health organizations, and patient groups endorse the following wording:

I understand that because of the lack of long-term safety data, we are still learning about the health problems that result from breast implants.  To date, thousands of women have reported to the FDA or to researchers that they have experienced serious health problems that several studies have linked to their breast implants. This may occur either immediately after getting implants or years later. These often include symptoms such as: joint and muscle pain or weakness, memory and concentration problems, chronic pain, depression, fatigue, chronic flu-like symptoms, migraines, or rashes and skin problems.

Several studies of women with breast implants have shown that they are significantly more likely to be diagnosed with one or more of the following diseases compared to other women:  Chronic Fatigue Syndrome; Multiple Sclerosis (MS); Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA); Sjögren’s syndrome; and Systemic Sclerosis/Scleroderma.

Although women who develop these symptoms or diseases can’t be certain that they were caused by breast implants, several studies indicate that most symptoms improve partially or completely after having their implants and capsules removed.

Breast-Implant Specific Risks

This heading in the FDA’s draft Checklist is misleading, since BIA-ALCL and many other risks of breast implants are specific to breast implants.  More important, this section is much too long and includes too many topic areas.

We therefore recommend the following shorter, more specific sections:

How long do breast implants last?

It’s essential that patients understand what it means when experts say that breast implants “don’t last a lifetime.”  Since many implant patients are young, some think that means they only last 30-50 years.  Even saying “the longer you have them, the more likely they are to break” can be misinterpreted to refer to 30 or 40 years later.  For that reason, the Working Group Checklist specifies “Implants may rupture or leak at any time, and that is more likely the longer you have them” and that “it is likely that I will need other surgeries related to my breast implants over the course of my life.”

The wording should be succinct, explicit, and easy to understand.  Augmentation patients are already aware that their insurance policy does not cover cosmetic surgery, but it is important for them to also know that insurance is unlikely to cover subsequent surgeries due to complications or breakage, since they might mistakenly assume that problems related to implants will be covered even if the initial cosmetic surgery is not.  We recommend the following wording:

I understand that breast implants are not expected to last for the rest of my life.  Implants may rupture or leak at any time, and that is more likely the longer you have them.  In addition, it is likely that I will need other surgeries related to my breast implants over the course of my life.  If I am a cosmetic surgery patient, my health insurance policy may refuse to cover these surgeries for removal, and probably would not cover replacement. These additional surgeries and procedures can include implant removal with or without replacement, muscle and tissue repair, scar revisions, MRI diagnostic exams, or other procedures. I understand that undergoing multiple surgeries may increase my chances of permanent breast deformity.

Chemicals and Metals in Breast Implants

Patients should be informed about the chemicals and metals in the specific make and model of breast implants they are considering.  Since the checklist is for all breast implant patients, it should include a brief, general statement about chemicals and heavy metals, but each patient should get separate, more detailed information about the specific model of implant they are considering.  We recommend the following wording for the checklist:

I understand that all breast implants contain chemicals and small amounts of heavy metals that may cause health problems. I understand that most of these chemicals are confined to the shell of the implant or stay inside the shell.  However, small quantities have been found to diffuse (bleed) from or through the implant shell, even if the implant is intact and not ruptured.

Rupture and Leakage

Patients would benefit from a section with a heading of “Rupture and Leakage.”  Although this overlaps with the issue of how long implants last, more specific information about silent rupture is important.  We recommend the following wording for the checklist, understanding that if FDA no longer recommends MRIs after 3 years, that wording should be revised, but the explicit information about the risks of silicone migration should be included:

I understand that the longer my breast implants are in place, the more likely they are to rupture, especially after the first few years. When a saline implant ruptures, it usually deflates quickly. When a silicone gel implant ruptures, I may not notice any changes and the rupture may not be detected by my doctor or by mammogram, MRI, or sonogram. I understand that an MRI is recommended for silicone gel breast implants 3 years following surgery and every 2 years after that to check for silent rupture, and that these MRIs often are not covered by health insurance. I understand that silicone may migrate from the implant into nearby tissues such as the chest wall, lymph nodes, upper abdominal wall, and into organs such as the liver or lungs where it cannot be removed. Since migrated silicone can cause health problems, it is currently recommended that any ruptured silicone implant should be removed as soon as possible. I understand that, if needed, treatment of these conditions may be at my own expense and not covered by insurance or a manufacturer warranty.

Capsular Contracture

Capsular Contracture is a common complication that therefore should have its own heading.  Our recommended wording is as follows:

I understand that one of the most common complications of breast implants is when the scar tissue capsule that forms around the implant hardens. In some cases, this can be quite painful, distort the shape of the breast, and can make mammography more painful and less accurate. Removing the implant and capsule without replacing the implant is the only recommended way to guarantee that this problem is corrected.

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer issues should be a separate heading in the checklist, not part of the section on ACLC, in order to avoid confusion.  Our recommended wording is as follows:

I understand that all breast implants can interfere with mammography and breast exams, possibly delaying the diagnosis of breast cancer. I understand that if I get breast implants, I should inform the mammography technologist about the implants and ask for additional views to improve the accuracy. I understand that mammography can also cause the breast implant to rupture or leak.

Interference with Breastfeeding

Since the data are lacking, our recommended wording is as follows:

I understand that breast implants and breast surgery may interfere with my ability to successfully breastfeed.  No long-term research has been conducted to determine the possible transmission of chemicals and heavy metals in the breast milk of women with implants.

Loss of Sensation to Breast or Nipple(s)

Many women do not understand that breast implant surgery can cause loss of sensation.  While more likely among reconstruction patients, it is important to note that augmentation patients can also experience loss of sensation or painful sensitivity.  We therefore recommend this wording:

I understand that breast implants and breast surgery may cause the nipple or breast to be painful, or to have decreased sensation. These changes may be temporary or permanent, and may affect sexual response or the ability to nurse a baby.

Cosmetic Complications

Cosmetic complications should be the last section of the checklist, because like surgical complications they are often included in standard informed consent documents.  We recommend the following brief, easy to understand, but explicit warnings, such as using the term “sag” instead of ptosis:

I understand that if my breasts had slightly different shapes before surgery, they may remain slightly different after surgery. I understand that the implants may cause the breasts to look slightly different in size or shape. I understand that the implant may move from the original placement location and that may result in asymmetry or other cosmetic problems. Breast implants can cause the breasts to sag over time due to the weight of the implants. I understand that if I am not happy with the results, I may need future surgeries to improve the appearance of my breasts.

 

FOOTNOTES:

Colaris MJ, de Boer M, van der Hulst RR, Cohen Tervaert JW. (2017) Two hundred cases of ASIA syndrome following silicone implants: a comparative study of 30 years and a review of current literature. Immunologic Research 65(1):120-128. doi: 10.1007/s12026-016-8821-y

Coroneos C, Selber J, Offodile A, et al. (2019) US FDA breast implant postapproval studies: Long-term outcomes in 99,993 patients. Annals of Surgery 269(1):30-36. doi: 10.1097/SLA.0000000000002990

De Boer M, Colaris M, van der Hulst RR, Cohen Tervaert JW (2017) Is explantation of silicone breast implants useful in patients with complaints? Immunologic Research 65(1):25-36. doi: 10.1007/s12026-016-8813-y

Watad A, Quaresma M, Brown S, et al (2017) Autoimmune/inflammatory syndrome induced by adjuvants (Shoenfeld’s syndrome)—an update. Lupus 26(7):675-681. doi:10.1177/0961203316686406

Watad A, Rosenberg V, Tiasano S. et al. (2018) Silicone breast implants and the risk of autoimmune/rheumatic disorders: A real-world analysis. International Journal of Epidemiology. 47(6):1846-1854. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyy217

 

 

Device warning letters plunged nearly 90% over 5 years. An FDA official predicts a rebound

FDA warning letters to medical device manufacturers slid by nearly 90% between 2015 and 2019, but may be set to rebound upward in 2020, according to device center Associate Director for Compliance and Quality Erin Keith. Warning letters are used by FDA to alert a manufacturer it “has significantly violated FDA regulations,” such as misstating what a device is indicated for or having poor manufacturing practices, according to the agency.

[…]

Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Center for Health Research, said the trend is emblematic of a regulator that is overly focused on pleasing industry.

“It could have several different causes, reorganization could be one. [Medical Device User Fee Amendments] regulations could be part of it, which requires more meetings. But there is this emphasis on customer service, which is defined as making life easier for the industry. Industry is an important customer, but so is the American taxpayer,” Zuckerman said.

[…]

Another method FDA has utilized is increasing the number of alternative methods of disseminating information, such as issuing Letters to Health Care Providers and Safety Communications. For example, in April 2019, the agency issued a safety communication alerting patients and providers of mammography problems at a medical clinic in Ohio, noting the facility “was unable to meet the parameters for a key quality control test on the day of the 2018 annual inspection.” FDA noted in the safety communication quality problems at East Palestine Family Medical Clinic dated back to October 2017, and recommended patients screened at the facility receive an additional mammography.

[…]

Read the original story here

Breast Implant Working Group’s Comments on FDA’s Draft Guidance to Improve Patient Communication on Breast Implants

Scot Glasberg, MD,  Diana Zuckerman, PhD, Alan Matarasso, MD, Karuna Jagger, Raylene Hollrah, Jamee Cook, and Maria Gmitro, December 23, 2019


Download the comment here.

Comment to the FDA Docket on the FDA’s Draft Guidance to Improve Patient Communication on Breast Implants

A Working Group comprised of two former presidents of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the president of a national research center, and four nationally respected patient advocates came together to find common ground regarding the risks of breast implants.   As individuals (Dr. Scot Glasberg, Dr. Alan Matarasso, Dr. Diana Zuckerman, Ms. Karuna Jagger, Ms. Raylene Hollrah, Ms. Jamee Cook, and Ms. Maria Gmitro), we are urging that the FDA require a black box warning and Patient Informed Consent Check List that provides information about the risks of cancer, breast implant illness, and other serious health problems in explicit and easy-to-understand wording that all individuals considering breast implants can understand, regardless of educational level or stress that is inevitable when a person  is considering surgery.

Black Box Warning

The FDA’s draft Black Box warning is too vaguely worded on BIA-ALCL and breast implant illness, and includes jargon that will not be understood by all patients.  For example, it should specify that breast implants can cause ALCL, breast implants are not lifetime devices (instead of FDA’s proposed Black Box wording that they are “not considered lifetime devices), replace technical jargon, and be more explicit about the evidence regarding breast implant illness instead of making it sound like it is not a real risk.

The FDA draft Black Box states that “breast implants have been associated with the development of a cancer of the immune system called breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL).”  Association implies correlation rather than causation.  In fact, the evidence is clear that breast implants can cause BIA-ALCL.

The FDA draft says that the rates of BIA-ALCL “are not well defined.”  Although correct, that terminology will not be understood by all patients.  Instead, it should state that the rates “are not known.”

We agree with the FDA draft that it is important to illustrate the seriousness of BIA-ALCL by stating that “Some patients have died from BIA-ALCL.”

The draft Black Box wording regarding symptoms of breast implant illness would be confusing to patients.  It refers to systemic symptoms, which is the correct term, but not one that all patients would understand.  It does not mention breast implant illness, which although not an established medical term, is one that is well understood by patients.  The FDA draft background paper and Black Box warning both state that “some” patients with breast implants “have reported a variety of systemic symptoms,” which implies that the numbers of women with these symptoms is small and that they reported the symptoms but that they haven’t been diagnosed.  That is incorrect.  The wording should be changed to “patients have experienced a variety of symptoms.”  The FDA proposed Black Box statement that “some patients report complete resolution of symptoms” again implies that these improvements are reported but not medically confirmed.

On the contrary, a review of several well-designed studies by De Boer et al. (2017) found that most women with breast implant illness who had their implants removed and not replaced were confirmed by physicians to have complete or substantial improvement in their symptoms and overall health.

In addition, the FDA draft Black Box does not mention the risk of autoimmune/connective tissue diseases.  The Black Box should specify that “several studies suggest that women with silicone gel or saline-filled breast implants have a small but significant increase in their chances of developing certain autoimmune or connective tissue diseases.” That statement is supported by the largest long-term study to date, by Watad et al. (2018), a retrospective analysis of 24,651 women with breast implants (confirmed by medical records) and 98,604 matched women who did not have breast implants. The strongest association with breast implants (OR>1.5, p<0.001) was recorded for Sjögren’s syndrome, systemic sclerosis (scleroderma) and sarcoidosis, based on new medical diagnoses made after the women received breast implants, which were included in medical records during a period of up to 20 years.  In addition, (Coroneos et al. 2019) reported that Allergan’s study of 60% of the almost 50,000 women they enrolled in their study submitted to the FDA, physicians’ diagnoses of their patients two years after their implant surgery found statistically significant increases in fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus compared to the general population.  Although the Mentor data reported in that study are very flawed, the Allergan data, which were provided to the FDA, seem solid.

Patient Informed Consent Checklist

The Breast Implant Working Group created a checklist that was provided to the FDA in October.  This checklist has been endorsed by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the National Center for Health Research, Breast Cancer Action, Our Bodies Ourselves, National Women’s Health Network, Jacobs Institute for Women’s Health, Breast Implant Victims Advocacy, Just Call Me Ray, and Breast Implant Safety Alliance.  It was also supported by more than 77,000 individuals who signed a petition that the Working Group provided to FDA officials on December 9, 2019

We agree with the FDA that the purpose of a patient checklist is to provide information for patients considering breast implants for augmentation or reconstruction, so that they can carefully weigh the risks and benefits of breast implants and make the decision that is right for them. Based on our experience with patients, we urge the FDA to ensure that the checklist is:

  • Brief and easy-to-understand, formatted with information on specific issues that are presented succinctly;
  • Jargon-free. Keep in mind that the average reading level in the U.S. is 6th
  • Organized to focus on the information that patients are less likely to obtain from other sources. It should not start with lengthy sections that are not especially interesting to patients.

Focus and Organization of the Checklist

The goal of the checklist should be to provide the most essential information that patients might not get from standard informed consent forms. It is therefore essential that the checklist provide information that thousands of implant patients have stated they were not warned about.  For that reason, the checklist should not focus on surgical and cosmetic risks, which are the types of risks that all patients are warned about in standard consent forms.  Instead of the almost full page of mostly surgical risks that are listed at the beginning of the FDA’s draft checklist, such risks should be summarized very briefly in one sentence, with the checklist focused on other risks that patients could otherwise not be aware of.  Similarly, cosmetic and local risks should be listed last in the checklist, since that information is more likely to be provided through other means.

The FDA draft checklist starts with “Considerations for a Candidate for Successful Breast Implantation,” cancer risk and a short section on “systemic illness.”  We suggest shorter, more focused headings and information to make the checklist more engaging and easy to read.

Who shouldn’t get breast implants?

The above heading should replace “Considerations for a Candidate for Successful Breast Implantation,’ since that latter heading implies that the patient characteristics listed are the only ones that would reduce the chances of complications or other problems.  In terms of content, the FDA draft wording on who should not get breast implants contains important information but is much too long and includes information that could be summarized.  The goal of the checklist should be to provide the most essential information that patients might not get from standard informed consent forms.  We recommend a short summary regarding active infections, cancer, or wound healing, and the following wording instead:

I understand that the safety of breast implants was never studied for people who have autoimmune symptoms or diseases, or a family history of those diseases. Breast implants may be more likely to cause serious health problems and symptoms for these people.  In addition, breast implants may not be safe for anyone with a weakened immune system or certain genetic risk factors that have not yet been identified.

Risk of Cancer: BIA-ALCL (Breast Implant Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma)

We recommend that the FDA’s draft wording for BIA-ALCL could be improved as follows:

I understand that there is a small risk for me to develop BIA-ALCL, a cancer of the immune system. BIA-ALCL is a type of lymphoma that develops on or around the scar capsule that surrounds the breast implant. I understand that the symptoms of BIA-ALCL include breast swelling, lumps, pain, and asymmetry that develop after surgical incisions are completely healed, usually years after implant surgery.

Treatment for BIA-ALCL includes removal of the implant and scar capsule, and, if not treated early, may include chemotherapy and radiation. This diagnosis and treatment may be at my own expense and is not always covered by insurance. 

Systemic Symptoms:  Breast Implant Illness

As noted earlier, “Breast Implant Illness” should be the term used, since “systemic symptoms” is not a term that all patients would understand.  Also as noted earlier, the FDA draft guidance and draft checklist consistently imply that the number of women reporting symptoms of breast implant illness is small and that there is no research evidence that the symptoms are caused by their implants.  For example, the FDA’s draft wording that “some women report” implies that a small number of women are claiming an illness that isn’t real.  It is more accurate and meaningful to patients to say that several studies support the apparent causal link to breast implant illness symptoms (Watad et al 2017 and Colaris et al. 2017) and to symptom improvement after implants are removed (DeBoer et al. 2017), for example).  It should also state that the largest, long-term studies also indicate a statistically significant increase in certain autoimmune or connective tissue diseases, as summarized on page 2 of this document, citing Watad et al. 2018 and Coroneos et al. 2019). For that reason, ASPS, researchers, women’s health organizations, and patient groups endorse the following wording:

I understand that because of the lack of long-term safety data, we are still learning about the health problems that result from breast implants.  To date, thousands of women have reported to the FDA or to researchers that they have experienced serious health problems that several studies have linked to their breast implants. This may occur either immediately after getting implants or years later. These often include symptoms such as: joint and muscle pain or weakness, memory and concentration problems, chronic pain, depression, fatigue, chronic flu-like symptoms, migraines, or rashes and skin problems.

Several studies of women with breast implants have shown that they are significantly more likely to be diagnosed with one or more of the following diseases compared to other women:  Chronic Fatigue Syndrome; Multiple Sclerosis (MS); Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA); Sjögren’s syndrome; and Systemic Sclerosis/Scleroderma.

Although women who develop these symptoms or diseases can’t be certain that they were caused by breast implants, several studies indicate that most symptoms improve partially or completely after having their implants and capsules removed.

Breast-Implant Specific Risks

This heading in the FDA’s draft Checklist is misleading, since BIA-ALCL and many other risks of breast implants are specific to breast implants.  More important, this section is much too long and includes too many topic areas.

We therefore recommend the following shorter, more specific sections:

How long do breast implants last?

It’s essential that patients understand what it means when experts say that breast implants “don’t last a lifetime.”  Since many implant patients are young, some think that means they only last 30-50 years.  Even saying “the longer you have them, the more likely they are to break” can be misinterpreted to refer to 30 or 40 years later.  For that reason, the Working Group Checklist specifies “Implants may rupture or leak at any time, and that is more likely the longer you have them” and that “it is likely that I will need other surgeries related to my breast implants over the course of my life.”

The wording should be succinct, explicit, and easy to understand.  Augmentation patients are already aware that their insurance policy does not cover cosmetic surgery, but it is important for them to also know that insurance is unlikely to cover subsequent surgeries due to complications or breakage, since they might mistakenly assume that problems related to implants will be covered even if the initial cosmetic surgery is not.  We recommend the following wording:

I understand that breast implants are not expected to last for the rest of my life.  Implants may rupture or leak at any time, and that is more likely the longer you have them.  In addition, it is likely that I will need other surgeries related to my breast implants over the course of my life.  If I am a cosmetic surgery patient, my health insurance policy may refuse to cover these surgeries for removal, and probably would not cover replacement. These additional surgeries and procedures can include implant removal with or without replacement, muscle and tissue repair, scar revisions, MRI diagnostic exams, or other procedures. I understand that undergoing multiple surgeries may increase my chances of permanent breast deformity.

Chemicals and Metals in Breast Implants

Patients should be informed about the chemicals and metals in the specific make and model of breast implants they are considering.  Since the checklist is for all breast implant patients, it should include a brief, general statement about chemicals and heavy metals, but each patient should get separate, more detailed information about the specific model of implant they are considering.  We recommend the following wording for the checklist:

I understand that all breast implants contain chemicals and small amounts of heavy metals that may cause health problems. I understand that most of these chemicals are confined to the shell of the implant or stay inside the shell.  However, small quantities have been found to diffuse (bleed) from or through the implant shell, even if the implant is intact and not ruptured.

Rupture and Leakage

Patients would benefit from a section with a heading of “Rupture and Leakage.”  Although this overlaps with the issue of how long implants last, more specific information about silent rupture is important.  We recommend the following wording for the checklist, understanding that if FDA no longer recommends MRIs after 3 years, that wording should be revised, but the explicit information about the risks of silicone migration should be included:

I understand that the longer my breast implants are in place, the more likely they are to rupture, especially after the first few years. When a saline implant ruptures, it usually deflates quickly. When a silicone gel implant ruptures, I may not notice any changes and the rupture may not be detected by my doctor or by mammogram, MRI, or sonogram. I understand that an MRI is recommended for silicone gel breast implants 3 years following surgery and every 2 years after that to check for silent rupture, and that these MRIs often are not covered by health insurance. I understand that silicone may migrate from the implant into nearby tissues such as the chest wall, lymph nodes, upper abdominal wall, and into organs such as the liver or lungs where it cannot be removed. Since migrated silicone can cause health problems, it is currently recommended that any ruptured silicone implant should be removed as soon as possible. I understand that, if needed, treatment of these conditions may be at my own expense and not covered by insurance or a manufacturer warranty.

Capsular Contracture

Capsular Contracture is a common complication that therefore should have its own heading.  Our recommended wording is as follows:

I understand that one of the most common complications of breast implants is when the scar tissue capsule that forms around the implant hardens. In some cases, this can be quite painful, distort the shape of the breast, and can make mammography more painful and less accurate. Removing the implant and capsule without replacing the implant is the only recommended way to guarantee that this problem is corrected.

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer issues should be a separate heading in the checklist, not part of the section on ACLC, in order to avoid confusion.  Our recommended wording is as follows:

I understand that all breast implants can interfere with mammography and breast exams, possibly delaying the diagnosis of breast cancer. I understand that if I get breast implants, I should inform the mammography technologist about the implants and ask for additional views to improve the accuracy. I understand that mammography can also cause the breast implant to rupture or leak.

Interference with Breastfeeding

Since the data are lacking, our recommended wording is as follows:

I understand that breast implants and breast surgery may interfere with my ability to successfully breastfeed.  No long-term research has been conducted to determine the possible transmission of chemicals and heavy metals in the breast milk of women with implants.

Loss of Sensation to Breast or Nipple(s)

Many women do not understand that breast implant surgery can cause loss of sensation.  While more likely among reconstruction patients, it is important to note that augmentation patients can also experience loss of sensation or painful sensitivity.  We therefore recommend this wording:

I understand that breast implants and breast surgery may cause the nipple or breast to be painful, or to have decreased sensation. These changes may be temporary or permanent, and may affect sexual response or the ability to nurse a baby.

Cosmetic Complications

Cosmetic complications should be the last section of the checklist, because like surgical complications they are often included in standard informed consent documents.  We recommend the following brief, easy to understand, but explicit warnings, such as using the term “sag” instead of ptosis:

I understand that if my breasts had slightly different shapes before surgery, they may remain slightly different after surgery. I understand that the implants may cause the breasts to look slightly different in size or shape. I understand that the implant may move from the original placement location and that may result in asymmetry or other cosmetic problems. Breast implants can cause the breasts to sag over time due to the weight of the implants. I understand that if I am not happy with the results, I may need future surgeries to improve the appearance of my breasts.

 

FOOTNOTES:

Colaris MJ, de Boer M, van der Hulst RR, Cohen Tervaert JW. (2017) Two hundred cases of ASIA syndrome following silicone implants: a comparative study of 30 years and a review of current literature. Immunologic Research 65(1):120-128. doi: 10.1007/s12026-016-8821-y

Coroneos C, Selber J, Offodile A, et al. (2019) US FDA breast implant postapproval studies: Long-term outcomes in 99,993 patients. Annals of Surgery 269(1):30-36. doi: 10.1097/SLA.0000000000002990

De Boer M, Colaris M, van der Hulst RR, Cohen Tervaert JW (2017) Is explantation of silicone breast implants useful in patients with complaints? Immunologic Research 65(1):25-36. doi: 10.1007/s12026-016-8813-y

Watad A, Quaresma M, Brown S, et al (2017) Autoimmune/inflammatory syndrome induced by adjuvants (Shoenfeld’s syndrome)—an update. Lupus 26(7):675-681. doi:10.1177/0961203316686406

Watad A, Rosenberg V, Tiasano S. et al. (2018) Silicone breast implants and the risk of autoimmune/rheumatic disorders: A real-world analysis. International Journal of Epidemiology. 47(6):1846-1854. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyy217

 

 

Roundup 2019: Breast implants, mesh, paclitaxel-coated devices among hot topics at FDA expert panels

One undercurrent: Inadequacy of post-approval studies and spotty adverse event reporting, leading to incomplete data with which panelists could form opinions.

It was a busy year for FDA’s expert advisory committees, called on to tackle many of its biggest medical device questions in 2019, new and old.

[…]

Repeated meetings aren’t necessarily a negative, said Diana Zuckerman, president at the National Center for Health Research since 1999.

“We can’t think of these public meetings as a bad outcome … We wish that people weren’t being harmed by breast implants, by mesh, by Essure, and so on. But if they are being harmed, then I’d much rather there be a public meeting about it then to have it covered up,” Zuckerman said. “For breast implants especially, it’s made an enormous difference in terms of public awareness.”?

[…]

Read original story here.

Medical Professors are Supposed to Share Their Outside Income With the University of California. But Many Don’t.

For nearly two decades, Dr. Neal Hermanowicz has led the movement disorders program at the University of California’s Irvine campus, where he earns more than $380,000 a year in salary and bonuses. The widely respected expert on Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases adds to his income by consulting for drug companies.

[…]

In recent years, internal audits at the university’s Irvine and San Francisco campuses have both found that, of a sample of health science faculty, about one-quarter weren’t disclosing all of their outside income. ProPublica’s investigation and the audits show that campus administrators fail to monitor or enforce the rules adequately, and that they rarely penalize violators — a testament, critics say, both to the power of tenured faculty and the university’s desire to accommodate pharmaceutical companies that fund academic research. The underreporting at the UC campuses contrasts with the increase in researchers’ disclosures of potential conflicts in academic journals.

[…]

After Nuplazid hit the market, reports of deaths associated with the drug surged. “It’s a very high number” of deaths, said Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Center for Health Research. While it’s difficult to determine why there are so many fatalities, she said, the drug’s benefit isn’t worth the risk. In hundreds of cases, patients’ hallucinations, which are supposed to subside with the drug, were instead aggravated.

[…]

Some faculty members do take pains to comply with the university’s policy on outside income. Dr. Anjay Rastogi, a professor and clinical chief of nephrology at UCLA medical school, meticulously tracks all payments he receives from industry in a centralized spreadsheet — and remits the required portion, which he said funds academic enrichment, teaching or research.

“We need to disclose everything, I disclose more rather than less,” he said. “In my opinion, it’s fair that we help the university, and they help us as well.”

Read original story here.

Report Claims More Women than Men Injured by Medical Devices

Steps had to be taken to identify the gender of those within the database as although the FDA gathers information on the sex of patients, this data is not made publicly available. Therefore, in order to overcome this obstacle, the ICIJ realised that the sex of patients was sometimes disclosed through pronouns and adjectives within the incident reports submitted to the FDA.

[…]

Talking about the findings, the ICIJ stated: “The trend we noticed is consistent with studies that have shown that women experience higher rates of hip-implant failure than men and have stronger immunological reactions to metal-containing devices.”

Other experts within the industry were keen to voice their opinion over the importance of looking at the effects of medical devices on different genders. Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Center for Health Research commented: “Having information about sex is very important because some products differ in safety between men and women.”

[…]

Read original story here.

Massive Marketing Muscle Pushes 3D Mammograms, Despite No Evidence They Save More Lives, Investigation Shows

Liz Szabo, USA Today: October 18th, 2019.


When Dr. Worta McCaskill-Stevens made an appointment for a mammogram last year, she expected a simple breast cancer screening – not a heavy-handed sales pitch.

A receptionist asked if she wanted a free upgrade to a “3D mammogram,” or tomosynthesis.

“She said there’s a new approach and it’s much better, and it finds all cancer,” said McCaskill-Stevens, who declined the offer.

A short time later, a technician asked again: Was the patient sure she didn’t want 3D?

Upselling customers on high-tech breast cancer screenings is just one way the 3D mammography industry aggressively promotes its product.

A KHN investigation found that manufacturers, hospitals, doctors and some patient advocates have put their marketing muscle – and millions of dollars – behind 3D mammograms. The juggernaut has left many women feeling pressured to undergo screenings, which, according to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, haven’t been shown to be more effective than traditional mammograms.

[…]

The American Cancer SocietySusan G. Komen and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force also say there isn’t yet enough evidence to advise women on 3D mammograms.

When the Food and Drug Administration approved the first 3D mammography system, made by Hologic, the agency required the technology to be safe and effective at finding breast cancer – not at improving survival.

“The companies do the minimal research needed to get FDA approval, and that usually means no meaningful evidence of how it helps patients,” said Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Center for Health Research.

Valenti said Hologic presented strong evidence to the FDA. “The data was overwhelming that 3D was a superior mammogram,” Valenti said.

Describing a breast exam as 3D may conjure up images of holograms or virtual reality. In fact, tomosynthesis is closer to a mini-CT scan.

Although all mammograms use X-rays, conventional 2D screenings provide two views of each breast, one from top to bottom and one from the side. 3D screenings take pictures from multiple angles, producing dozens or hundreds of images, and take only a few seconds longer.

Yet some studies suggest that 3D mammograms are less accurate than 2D.

A 2016 study in The Lancet Oncology found that women screened with 3D mammograms had more false alarms. A randomized trial of 29,000 women published in The Lancet in June showed that 3D detected no more breast tumors than 2D mammograms did.

And, like all mammograms, the 3D version carries risks. Older 3D systems expose women to twice as much radiation as a 2D mammogram, although those levels are still considered safe, said Diana Miglioretti, a biostatistics professor at the University of California-Davis School of Medicine.

Valenti said the newest 3D systems provide about the same radiation dose as 2D.

Diagnosing more cancers doesn’t necessarily help women, Brawley said. That’s because not all breast tumors are life-threatening; some grow so slowly that women would live just as long if they ignored them – or never even knew they were there. Finding these tumors often leads women to undergo treatments they don’t need.

2017 study estimated 1 in 3 women with breast cancer detected by a mammogram are treated unnecessarily. It’s possible 3D mammograms make that problem worse, by finding even more small, slow-growing breast tumors than 2D, said Dr. Alex Krist, vice chairman of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an expert panel that issues health advice. By steering women toward 3D mammograms before all the evidence is in, “we could potentially hurt women,” Krist said.

Some experts worry that patients, who tend to overestimate their risk of dying from breast cancer, are acting out of fear when they choose treatment.

“If there was ever an audience susceptible to direct-to-consumer advertising, it’s women afraid of breast cancer,” Zuckerman said.

Some proponents of 3D mammograms imply that women who opt for 2D are taking a risk.

The first question many women have about 3D mammograms is: Are they less painful?

In ads, Hologic claims its 3D device was less painful for 93% of women. But that claim comes from a company-funded study that hasn’t been formally reviewed by outside experts, Zuckerman noted. Given the limited data provided in the study, it’s possible the findings were the result of chance, said Zuckerman, who called the ads “very misleading.”

Valenti said peer review is important in studies about cancer detection or false alarms. But when it relates to “general patient satisfaction or patient preference, those are data that we get in other ways,” he said. “Plenty of [doctors] have the [3D] system now and you can get feedback from them. “

While screenings may not generate a lot of income, they can attract patients who need other, more profitable hospital procedures.

“Anytime you diagnose more tumors, you can treat more tumors,” said Amitabh Chandra, director of health policy research at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Click here to read the full article.

Alternatives to Breast Implants: Lifts and Fat Transfers


When considering cosmetic breast augmentation, women typically consider implants as their main option. However, there are several other procedures to change how your breasts look that may have fewer risks and complications compared to breast implants. These alternatives include breast lifts and fat transfers.

Breast Lifts

Breast lifts, clinically called a “mastopexy,” raise and reshape the breasts. Surgeons remove extra skin and tighten surrounding tissue. In addition to reshaping the breasts, a lift can reposition the nipple and reduce the size of the areola if it has become enlarged over time. Many women choose to get breast lifts to improve the stretching or sagging of their breasts that could have been caused by pregnancy, weight fluctuations, and simple gravity. A breast lift alone cannot make breasts larger, but breasts will look fuller and more perky after the procedure. 1

There are four types of breast lift techniques, which depend on breast and areola size and shape, degree of sagging, amount of skin that must be removed, and the elasticity of skin. For women who have smaller breasts or minor sagging, a crescent or donut technique can be used to create small incisions around the areola. For women who have larger breasts and more severe sagging, surgeons will need to create multiple incisions, either around the areola and vertically down the middle of the breast (a lollipop technique) or including a horizontal incision along the breast crease (an anchor technique). 2

Swelling and bruising will last for about two weeks, and numbness may last up to six weeks. Final results of breast lifts will appear over the months following the procedure as the breasts settle into their new shape and position. Results of a breast lift procedure are long-lasting, especially with a healthy lifestyle. Women with smaller breasts will likely have results that last longer than women with larger breasts. It is also important to note that the cosmetic appearance of the breasts can change due to pregnancy, breast feeding, and significant weight changes that occur after surgery. Therefore, women should consider whether they are planning a pregnancy in the near future before having a breast lift. 3

Risks of Breast Lifts 

When considering a breast lift, it is important to consider the risks of the procedures in addition to the benefits. For breast lift procedures, the most common risks include changes in nipple or breast sensation, asymmetrical breast shape, and partial or total loss of the areola.1 Less common risks that some patients experience are bleeding or hematoma formation, infection, poor incision healing, fat necrosis (fatty tissue around skin may die), and fluid accumulation. Although patients will have scars from a breast lift procedure, many notice that some scarring is hidden in natural contours of the breasts and that scars improve over time, typically within one year.3 As with any cosmetic procedure, some patients may be unhappy with the final result. Your chances of getting the results you want will be better if you choose a board certified plastic surgeon with a lot of experience doing breast lifts without breast implants.

Some plastic surgeons recommend getting both a breast lift and implants to get the best cosmetic result. However, that means patients will face the risks of the lift and the additional risks of the implants. While the breast lift procedure alone is safer than getting implants, there is still a lack of safety data and research on breast lifts to know how often complications occur in the solo procedure. The skill and experience of the plastic surgeon makes a big difference.

Fat Transfer

Fat transfers may be a good option for women who want to have more natural looking, fuller breasts without implants. Fat transfers use liposuction to remove fat from other parts of the body and insert it into the breasts. Fat for liposuction is typically taken from areas such as the back, thighs, abdomen, and buttocks. 4 Next, the fat cells are processed into a liquid so they can be injected into the breast area. 5 The surgeon will slowly inject the fat liquid to multiple areas of the breast until the desired breast size is achieved. Since the procedure uses body fat from the patient, thin women may not be good candidates for this procedure. Because the injected fat does not contain its own blood supply, only a small amount of fat can be injected at a time. Patients should not expect to gain more than one cup size. 

Patients typically notice improvement right after the procedure, but the final results will appear one year after surgery when swelling has gone down. Multiple follow-up fat transfer procedures may be necessary to maintain the shape of the breasts. In many cases, fat that has been injected into the breasts may be reabsorbed by the body over time, move to other parts of the body, or die, causing breasts to lose volume.5 Therefore, surgeons may recommend follow-up sessions to repeat the procedure, which may be expensive and is an important factor to consider.

Risks of Fat Transfers

High patient and surgeon satisfaction as well as low complication rates have been reported for fat transfer procedures, but outcomes vary greatly based on the surgeon as the procedure is not yet standardized. 6, 7 The most common complications from fat transfers include development of cysts (lumps) or fat necrosis, which is when the transferred fat dies and is reabsorbed by the body. 8 Fat necrosis is more common when a large amount of fat is injected. This usually does not need to be treated, as the body takes care of the dead cells on its own. 

Other less common complications can include infection and calcification of the fat.8 Like fat necrosis, these complications are more common when a large amount of fat is injected. Because the injected fat does not have its own blood supply, too much injected fat may lead to microcalcifications, which is when the fat hardens. These calcifications are usually harmless, but they may look like breast cancer on a mammogram, resulting in stressful and expensive breast biopsies.

Bottom Line

Despite risks, lifts and fat transfers appear to be safer than breast implants. Breast implants are not lifetime devices, and women should expect additional surgery to replace them every 10-15 years if not more often. Health insurance often does not pay for removal or complications for augmentation patients and never pays for replacement of cosmetic implants. The high cost of these additional surgeries, as well as the common complications from implants, make lifts and transfers a safer option for many patients.

While breast lifts and fat transfers provide alternatives to breast implants for cosmetic breast enhancement, patients must consider the risks of both procedures before choosing to undergo surgery. More long-term research is needed to confirm the safety and effectiveness of both procedures.

When deciding whether or not to undergo cosmetic breast augmentation, it is important to weigh the risks and benefits of each procedure with a highly skilled, experienced surgeon who is board certified in plastic surgery, so you can make a decision that is right for you.