U.K. says no to routine removal of faulty breast implants

Dr. Maurice Mimoun, a plastic surgeon at the St Louis hospital, holds a silicone gel breast implant made by French company Poly Implant Prothese, or PIP, that he removed from a patient because of concerns that they are unsafe, Paris, Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2011. French health authorities are considering whether to suggest that an estimated 30,000 women in France get their breast implants removed, amid warnings by leading doctors about risks of rupture and possible cancer risks. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
breast implants, pip, france, poly implant prothese
AP Photo/Michel Euler

(CBS/AP) The British government has told the 40,000 women with potentially defective French-made breast implants that there wasn't enough evidence to recommend that each woman get them removed.

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Britain said Friday its review of the implants, made by now-defunct French company Poly Implant Prothese, found no link to cancer and insufficient evidence of an increased risk for rupture.

But 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.

Lansley also urged private medical centers to offer the same deal to those who had paid for cosmetic surgery.

"We believe that private health care providers have a moral duty to offer the same service to their patients that we will offer to NHS patients," Lansley said.

Lansley said the non-medical grade silicone used by the French company "should not have been implanted in women in the first place," and outlined its offer to provide examinations and possible removals for thousands of women.

PIP's website says the company exported to more than 60 countries and was one of the world's leading implant makers. The silicone-gel implants in question were not sold in the U.S.

The French government said it will pay for some 30,000 French women to have their implants removed, after more than 1,000 ruptures of the PIP implants, CBS News reported. Colombia and Venezuela have made similar offers.

France's Health Safety Agency says the suspect PIP implants appear to be more rupture-prone than other types. Investigators also say PIP sought to save money by using industrial silicone instead of medical silicone.

In the Czech Republic - where the implants were banned in 2010 - the country's health ministry on Friday recommended about 2,000 Czech women with potentially faulty implants should have them removed. Women who refuse to have the implants removed should undergo regular health checks, it said.

"No imminent risk of serious health problems has been proven," the ministry said.

According to estimates by national authorities, over 42,000 women in the U.K. received the implants, more than 30,000 in France, 9,000 in Australia and 4,000 in Italy. Nearly 25,000 of the implants were sold in Brazil.

Australia's medical watchdog, however, says health officials had found no evidence that the PIP implants had an increased risk of rupture in Australian women, and said lab testing of the silicone gel used indicated it was nontoxic to nearby tissue even if the implant did rupture.