Transvaginal mesh devices are one of Australia's greatest medical scandals

IT has been nearly three years since the Newcastle Herald first wrote about transvaginal, or pelvic, mesh devices and a former University of Newcastle associate professor who implanted the devices, Richard Reid.

A lot has happened since then.

Women left with devastating and permanent injuries and complications after pelvic mesh surgery for incontinence and prolapse formed a group, the Australian Pelvic Mesh Support Group, to break the silence about the extent of pelvic mesh problems.

More than 400 women registered for a landmark class action in the Australian courts against just one of the mesh manufacturers, Johnson & Johnson, that starts on Tuesday.

Another 350 women have registered for a class action case against a second major mesh manufacturer, and other women have launched legal cases against individual doctors.

Herald investigations have revealed the global reach of the transvaginal mesh catastrophe, and how even a senior medical specialist familiar with the issue has estimated the total mesh compensation payouts could be more than $20 billion, with at least 120,000 women seeking damages in America alone.

The Herald has also revealed the Australian backstory to the global mesh saga, and how an Australian doctor’s pelvic mesh device for incontinence was developed in America and cleared for use for prolapse surgery without evidence of its safety and efficacy for that purpose.

That clearance allowed other mesh device manufacturers to have their devices cleared for use under an American system that allows manufacturers to argue their devices are “substantially the same” as already-cleared devices.

In February Victorian Senator Derryn Hinch successfully argued for a Senate inquiry into transvaginal mesh devices, and how they were cleared for use in Australia as a surgical treatment for prolapse, which is a complication after childbirth.

In the past week Victorian and NSW health authorities have initiated investigations after allegations about mesh surgery in a public and private hospital, and serious allegations about the release of research papers on mesh.

What is clear, even before the Senate inquiry, is that regulators failed women for more than a decade.

Issue: 38,534.