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Motion Filed to Centralize Power Morcellator Lawsuits

gavel and stethoscopeA request has been submitted to centralize the growing number of power morcellator lawsuits that have been filed in federal courts across the country. The request was submitted by six of the 22 plaintiffs that have already filed lawsuits alleging use of the power morcellators during a hysterectomy or myomectomy led to the spread of leiomyosarcoma, a potentially deadly cancer, throughout their body.

The request was filed with the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation on June 18, 2015. In the request, the plaintiffs stated cases should be centralized into multidistrict litigation or an MDL. An MDL coordinates numerous cases with similar statements of fact, for the purpose of streamlining early trial proceedings and reduce duplicate discovery and conflicting rulings. All of the complaints filed to date contain similar allegations of insufficient warnings issued by manufacturers about the risk that these devices can spread previously undetected cancer cells throughout the body.

Power morcellators and spread of cancer

Power morcellators were introduced as an alternative to traditional surgical procedures to treat uterine fibroids and other conditions that required removal of the uterus. A hysterectomy or myomectomy (procedure used to remove fibroids) often involved a hospital stay and a longer recovery period, while procedures using morcellators involved much smaller incisions and faster healing. Although the benefits were attractive to many women undergoing these procedures, the risks associated with the devices have now outweighed the potential benefits for many women.

Power morcellators break up the uterus and fibroids, allowing the physician to remove them through the smaller incisions. Unfortunately, some patients and doctors discovered that if undiagnosed sarcoma was present in the uterus at the time of the procedure, the morcellator spread cancer cells outside the uterus to other areas of the body. While this sarcoma had a good prognosis when it was still contained, the spread of cancer cells negatively impacted the patient’s survival rate and quality of life. According to the American Cancer Society, five-year survival rates for women with localized leiomyosarcoma is 63 percent, while survival rates when the cancer has spread to distant areas of the body is just 14 percent.

FDA issues safety communication

In November 2014, the FDA issued a safety communication, alerting the medical community and the general population about the risk of cancer spread by the morcellators. According to the agency’s analysis, one in every 350 women undergoing a myomectomy or hysterectomy has an undiagnosed uterine sarcoma, which includes leiomyosarcoma. The agency also stated in their communication that at this time, there is no reliable test to determine whether a woman has a uterine sarcoma prior to the morcellation procedure.

In regards to this information, the FDA advises health care providers to understand the risks associated with power morcellation procedures and encourage patients to explore all of their options in terms of hysterectomy and myomectomy procedures. While the agency does acknowledge there may be a small population of women that would still be appropriate candidates for power morcellation, use of these devices for myomectomy or hysterectomy is contraindicated for the large majority of patients undergoing these procedures.

As more women are realizing the risks associated with the devices, and the lack of warning by the device manufacturers, they are taking their cases to court. While just 22 lawsuits have been filed in federal courts thus far, legal experts are expecting that number to go much higher. This is the reason behind the request for centralization, to ensure the legal process goes as smoothly and conveniently as possible for all involved. In addition to their request for centralization, the plaintiffs have asserted that the right location for coordination is the District of Kansas, where one of the power morcellator cancer lawsuits has already been filed.

  1. FDA, UPDATED Laparoscopic Uterine Power Morcellation in Hysterectomy and Myomectomy: FDA Safety Communication,
  2. Wall Street Journal, Two New Studies Add to Scrutiny of Gynecology Tool,
  3. American Cancer Society, Survival Rates for Uterine Sarcoma by Stage,
  4. Wall Street Journal, Aetna to Stop Covering Routine Use of Power Morcellator,