Britain says no evidence to recommend breast implant removal
The British government said Friday there was no evidence to recommend that more than 40,000 women in Britain with potentially faulty breast implants made by French firm PIP should have them removed.
But following an urgent review of the data used to assess the risk of the implants rupturing, it also said that women who had their implants on the National Health Service (NHS) could have them taken out without charge if they were concerned.
"On the basis of the information we have, we do not think it is necessary to recommend the routine removal of these implants," said Bruce Keogh, the NHS medical director charged with reviewing the implant data for the government.
"But we understand that some women will be very concerned so we support the governments position that the NHS will support removal of PIP implants if the patient has concerns and with her doctor she decides that it is right to do so."
The Department of Health also urged private providers to match its offer for the 95 percent of women who had their implants fitted by private companies, saying it was the companies' "moral duty" and an important part of their after-care.
However, it added that if the private clinic that fitted the implants no longer exists or refuses help, the NHS may offer to remove them with no cost to the patient.
The health scare was sparked when authorities in France last month advised 30,000 women with the implants produced by the now-bankrupt firm Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) to have them removed.
Although fears of a link to cancer are not yet proven, there were concerns that they could rupture dangerously.
On Friday, Germany and the Czech Republic became the latest countries to urge women to remove the implants, following Belgium, amid concerns that some of the implants were made with sub-standard gel.
Britain had repeatedly insisted that there was no evidence of a link with cancer and nothing to support a mass removal of the PIP implants, saying the risk of rupture was low at about one percent.
However, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley ordered an urgent review last weekend after a private company came forward with new figures suggesting that seven percent of its implants had ruptured in the last five years.
The expert group failed to establish whether the rupture rate was higher for PIP implants than for others, and said that even in the case of an implant rupturing, there was no risk of dangerous toxins leaking into the body.
"However, we are not confident that the manufacturer did not change the silicone in the implants, so cannot rule out the possibility that some are toxic," the Department of Health said.
Lansley said: "Throughout the past few weeks, my main concern has been for the safety of and compassion for women who have had PIP implants.
"It has been a worrying time for these women. We have at every stage sought to offer them as much advice and evidence as is available to us."
He said the NHS would support the removal of implants fitted by the service if women requested it following a consultation with their doctors, and urged private companies to do the same.
"We believe that private healthcare providers have a moral duty to offer the same service to their patients that we will offer to NHS patients -- free information, consultations, scans and removal if necessary," he said.
© 2012 AFP