BREAST IMPLANTS: IOM Finds No Link to Systemic Disease
An Institute of Medicine panel of scientists convened at the request of Congress has determined that silicone breast implants, though prone to rupture and hardening, do not cause any systemic disease. In a 400-page report to be released tomorrow, the IOM committee writes, "Some women with breast implants are indeed very ill and the IOM committee is very sympathetic to their distress. However, it can find no evidence that these women are ill because of their implants." The New York Times, which obtained an advance copy of the study from a firm "that consults in the breast implant matter," reports that because the research comes from "the medical arm of the National Academy of Sciences, the nation's most prestigious scientific organization," it is "expected to be influential in setting scientific agendas and encouraging women to accept settlements from implant makers rather than take their cases to court." Dow Corning has already agreed to pay $3.2 billion; Baxter International, Bristol-Myers Squibb and 3M have agreed to settlements totalling almost $4 billion, and millions of dollars in individual claims have also been reached.
The IOM researchers analyzed more than a thousand previous studies on breast implants, and held both public and private hearings. They determined there was no convincing evidence that the implants caused established tissue diseases like arthritis or lupus; breast cancer; nerve diseases like multiple sclerosis; new diseases that brought aches, pains, or overwhelming pain; silicone-related conditions in children via breast milk; or immunological reactions. Their findings closely matched those of two judge-appointed scientific panels, in Alabama and Oregon.
Some Still Doubtful
Former American College of Rheumatology President Dr. Shaun Ruddy, of Virginia Commonwealth University's Medical College of Virginia, said the IOM study's conclusions were "very forthright and outspoken," and added he "was glad the group was attempting to put the disease hypotheses to rest." Yet advocates and lawyers for breast implant plaintiffs were dismissive of the results. Sybil Goldreich, founder of an information clearinghouse for women with "silicone problems," said, "I find it extremely difficult to accept what the Institute of Medicine says because those studies are paid for by the manufacturers." Plaintiffs attorney Tommy Jacks, who "doubts that the report will be the last word on the matter," added, "This report is simply a review of the literature by a committee that's reached some conclusion. It is premature to conclude that reports like this are the last word that scientists and physicians will have about the safety of breast implants" (Kolata, 6/21).