British gov't finds no health risks from defective French-made breast implants

A Jan. 17, 2001 file photo taken in La Seyne-sur-Mer, southern France, shows then-President of Poly Implant Prothese (PIP), Jean-Claude Mas, holding a breast implant. ERIC ESTRADE/AFP/Getty Images

Former PIP President Jean-Claude Mas holds a breast implant
A Jan. 17, 2001 file photo taken in La Seyne-sur-Mer, southern France, shows then-President of Poly Implant Prothese (PIP), Jean-Claude Mas, holding a breast implant.
ERIC ESTRADE/AFP/Getty Images

(CBS/AP) A top British doctor commissioned by the U.K. government says faulty French-made breast implants by Poly Implant Prothese do not pose any long-term health problems to women - even if they rupture.

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The implants, made by the now-defunct PIP, were pulled from the market last year in several countries amid fears they could rupture and leak silicone into the body.

Around 47,000 British women are believed to have been given the PIP implants, which were filled with cheaper industrial-grade silicone, rather than the kind used for medical procedures. The U.K. government asked Dr. Bruce Keogh, medical director of Britain's National Health Service, to launch an investigation last December to assess what threat, if any, the implants posed to the woman's health.

Keogh studied the 240,000 implants of differing brands that have been given to 130,000 women in England and looked at data from other countries including France and Australia. On Monday, he said that studies showed the PIP implants were more likely to rupture than other brands, but do not pose a long-term risk to the health of the women who have them.

He said repeated tests in several countries showed that the implants are not toxic.

"Therefore we do not believe they are a threat to the long-term health of women who have PIP implants," he said. "We have, however, found that these implants are substandard when compared to other implants and that they are more likely to rupture."

In January, the British government told women that there wasn't enough evidence to recommend that each woman get the implants removed.

At the time Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said any British patient with the implants that were put in by the state-funded National Health Service would be offered an assessment and could have the implants removed for free if doctors believe it necessary. That would mostly affect breast cancer survivors, since the NHS does not pay for cosmetic surgery without a medical reason.

Other countries have differed in how they treat women with the PIP implants.

France said in December it will pay for some 30,000 French women to have their implants removed, HealthPop reported. At the time French officials said removals were "preventive" and not urgent and research thus far hadn't found a link between the implants and cancer.

Australia's medical watchdog, however, said health officials have found no evidence that the PIP implants had an increased risk of rupture in Australian women.

In the Czech Republic - where the implants were banned in 2010 - the country's health ministry said it would negotiate with the country's health insurers on how to cover the cost of removals.

In Venezuelathe government offered in December to pay for removal of the defective implants, but said the free procedure won't include replacement implants

Keogh said any woman in the UK who had possible symptoms of a rupture, such as tenderness, soreness or lumpiness, should first see her family doctor who would then refer her to a specialist.

  • CBS News Staff

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