California’s lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson took a turn in favor of the plaintiffs after a marketing expert testified last Tuesday that the corporation's marketing of pelvic mesh implants for women could undoubtedly mislead consumers.
The Northern California Record covered the development in the Johnson & Johnson mesh trial, noting that the Attorney General used the latest expert to advance claims that the pharmaceutical giant ignored the presence of dangers and side effects to profit on their problematic product.
The expert brought to the stand was none other than Dr. Anthony Pratkanis, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California Santa Cruz. He testified on the false claims and unethical sales tactics used by Johnson & Johnson, stating, "That 1 million women are happy is inherently misleading."
Dr. Pratkanis also displayed a three-part chart demonstrating Johnson & Johnson's advertisements portraying stress urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse as common and treatable, encouraging women to self-diagnose, and directing women to doctors who use Johnson & Johnson products.
It is believed by the plaintiffs that part of the issue is the trust that J&J has cultivated as a long-time producer of baby powder - utilizing maternal-infant branding to convey an idea of innocence, familiarity, and safety.
When asked to comment on whether this "halo effect" in marketing generated an intrinsic trust in their mesh product, Dr. Pratkanis responded, “Yes, the trust finds a platform to drive the [advertising] message home.”
He went on to state that while the advertisements addressed the risks of the surgical procedure, they did not adequately present the risks of the polypropylene mesh itself.
This consumer would have been led to believe that Johnson & Johnson's advertisements were “a complete discussion of the risks."
His final blow to the J&J defense?
“The risks [of mesh implants] are downplayed or not mentioned at all. A reasonable consumer would be misled."
This testimony has since been followed by statements from Bay Area pelvic surgeon and urogynecologist Tom Margolis who claims that J&J's marketing gave him a false perception of the possible complications of their mesh product.
As Law360 reports, Margolis testified, "[Mesh] does not foster normal healthy tissue incorporation, it is a false statement."..."What I've seen in my practice has been the opposite of healthy tissue incorporation. What I've seen is damage - substantial, significant, irreversible damage."
California is seeking roughly $960 million in civic penalties.
The trial continued yesterday.