Johnson & Johnson Recall Uterine Surgery Tools Over Cancer Fears

Johnson & Johnson, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, is now pressing surgeons to avoid using a surgical tool known to spread uterine cancer in women.

The recommendation comes after a recent study from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) showed that laparoscopic power morcellators — which are produced by Johnson & Johnson and used during hysterectomies and fibroid-removal surgery — could spread a uterine cancer known as sarcoma. According to the FDA, about 50,000 U.S.-based operations a year are performed using power morcellation of tissue containing fibroid tumors.

Sarcoma is a rare cancer (representing only 1 per cent of adult cancers) typically found in the body’s connective tissues, including nerves, muscles, joints, bone, fat, and blood vessels. Sarcoma is highly resistant to both surgery and chemotherapy.

As a result, Johnson & Johnson — which is based in New Brunswick, New Jersey — is asking medical professionals to immediately return their laparoscopic power morcellators.

Critics — including Diana Zuckerman, President of the National Center for Health Research — say they were surprised that Johnson & Johnson acted so quickly in helping take laparoscopic power morcellators off the market. “The company has had a rather abysmal track record on the public health front of ethical breaches in the last few years, so this is good that they’re doing this,” Zuckerman said.

This is not the first time that power morcellators have been associated with the spread of cancer. However, previous research had suggested the chances of spreading cancer were much lower: about 1 in 10,000. Now, it’s believed the chances are closer to 1 in 350.