A photo of surgical mesh/

Surgical mesh products continue to drive medical device lawsuit spending. [Photo via Adobe Stock]

Spending on advertisements related to medical device lawsuits this year is on track to exceed last year’s tally.

That’s according to figures provided by Washington, D.C.-based X Ante, which uses data from ad intelligence firm Vivvix. X Ante supplies reports on medical device lawsuit ad spending to the Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed), which is calling for new federal regulations of mass tort advertising to protect device manufacturers from lawsuits bankrolled by third-party funders.

For the first half of 2023, $6.2 million worth of legal ads targeted five kinds of medical devices:

  1. Pelvic mesh: $3.5 million
  2. Hernia mesh: $1.9 million
  3. CPAP machines: $532,000
  4. Physiomesh: $262,000
  5. Military earplugs: $54,000

Spending on the top five device categories totaled just under $11 million for all of 2022:

  1. Hernia mesh: $6.1 million
  2. CPAP machines: $2.1 million
  3. Exactech knee and hip implants: $1.4 million
  4. Physiomesh: $724,000
  5. Pelvic mesh: $648,000

Other leading mass tort ad targets in 2023 included inferior vena cava (IVC) filters, heater-cooler devices, warming blankets, Mirena intrauterine devices (IUDs), Stryker’s Cartiva toe implants and Bayer’s Essure permanent birth control.

More than 24,000 TV ads soliciting medical device injury claims aired in the first half of 2023, the firm said, with ad buys booming in the final month.

“Estimated spending on medical device claims solicitation advertising increased dramatically from the first to the second quarter, when $4.25 million was spent to air these ads during television programming throughout the nation,” X Ante said in its latest report, covering Q2 2023. “In June alone, spending on these ads skyrocketed from the prior month to more than $3 million — the highest in a month since October 2019.”

Pelvic mesh surged to the top of the list in Q2 2023, overcoming hernia mesh. Nearly all pelvic mesh ad spending in Q2 was from just two ads. Both ads solicited “claims referencing transvaginal mesh and other products included in Endo International’s bankruptcy settlement,” X Ante said.

Compared to the mesh ads, the CPAP machine ad spending is relatively new, spurred by the massive Philips Respironics recall.

And the military earplug spending, while relatively low compared to mesh products, is linked to a $6 billion 3M settlement announced in August.

Mesh devices fuel litigation-related ad spending

But it’s mesh products that continue to drive medical device lawsuit spending.

Mesh manufacturers started recalls nearly two decades ago and have fought lawsuits ever since. These devices triggered billions of dollars worth of product liability lawsuits, which caught the attention of investors and lawyers trying to get a cut for themselves.

One of the largest single settlements was the $830 million payout by Endo in 2014. (Endo’s more recent troubles are due to an $8 billion debt load, including nearly $600 million in opiod settlements.)

The following list is by no means exhaustive, and litigation continues to this day.

C.R. Bard was the first to recall mesh products in 2005 and expanded the recall in the following years. Becton, Dickinson & Co. bought Bard in 2017 and continues to battle lawsuits related to a range of mesh products.

Facing lawsuits from hundreds of women, Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon unit pulled its transvaginal mesh products from the market in 2012. The business recalled its Physiomesh product for hernia repairs in 2016. J&J paid $120 million to settle claims that year and another $117 million to settle claims across 41 states and Washington, D.C. in 2019.

In 2019, the FDA banned sales of surgical mesh for transvaginal repair of pelvic organ prolapse. By that point, Boston Scientific and Coloplast were the only device companies still marketing pelvic mesh.

Boston Scientific paid $119 million to settle mesh claims in 2015 and another $188 million in 2021 for a multi-state settlement over transvaginal surgical mesh marketing.

Related: How medical device companies can better protect themselves from lawsuits