PIP breast implant scandal: Here’s what you need to know

Women who had received the faulty breast implants demanded compensation Credit: PA

The victims of defective breast implants made by a French company should receive financial compensation, ruled a Paris appeal court in France. The case involved around 2,700 women, 540 of whom were Britons.

Thursday’s ruling, which might not be final and could go to another higher court, was announced by France-based association PIPA, which represents victims.

It’s the latest in the saga of the Poly Implant Prothese 'PIP' scandal, and has been hailed a turning point by PIPA, following a decade-long legal battle involving thousands of women.

Though it isn’t the first legal claim against the French implant company, lawyers say today’s ruling could have implications for tens of thousands more victims in various parts of the world, from the UK to Latin America.

  • ITV News Health Editor Emily Morgan on how the PIP case has ramifications around the world

But what's the history of the PIP breast implant scandal? Here’s everything you need to know.

What’s it all about?

Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) was a French company which manufactured breast implants, and was once the world’s third biggest supplier.

But in 2010, it was revealed that the company had been filling its implants with cheap industrial silicone that was not authorised for human use instead of medical silicone for years.

This caused an international health scare for the 300,000 to 400,000 women in roughly 65 countries who had received them, as doctors noticed abnormally high rupture rates in women with the implants. Fears were raised that that could possibly cause cases of breast cancer and even death owing to system toxicity.

Some of the victims had been given the faulty implants after undergoing mastectomies as part of their cancer treatment.

The French government immediately recalled the implants.

The company was then liquidated in 2010.

Later in June 2012, a UK report found that PIP implants had double the rupture rate of other implants.

Tens of thousands of women around the world had received the faulty PIP breast implants, including cancer patients. Credit: PA

Who are the players involved?

Frenchman Jean-Claude Mas founded PIP in 1991.

Following the scandal, Mas was found guilty of aggravated fraud and sentenced to four years in jail in 2013. He died in April 2019 at the age of 79.

Another player involved is cosmetic-surgery certification agency TUV Rheinland, which awarded safety certificates for the faulty implants.

How have the victims claimed compensation?

The current case, TUV1, which was the first to be brought to the French appeal court on behalf of 2,700 victims back in 2010, was against TUV Rheinland.

As the then-bankrupt company PIP couldn’t pay damages to women who suffered from leaky implants, they sought compensation from TUV Rheinland instead.

The German company was accused of committing negligence by certifying the faulty implants as safe. Its lawyers have maintained that the company was not liable, as it was unaware the PIP implants were not compliant.

French lawyer Olivier Aumaître who brought the first case, created the PIP Implant World Victims Association (PIPA) in 2017 forming the biggest group action in the field of healthcare.

In 2017, a French court in Toulon ordered TUV to pay 60 million euros, 3 million euros each, to 20,000 victims in the case known as TUV3, the case is still ongoing. Several claims have been made worldwide, with other cases for compensation still ongoing.

What happens next?

The ruling, Aumaître hopes, might have implications for the many other victims, although he conceded he was “not aware of other compensation wins in other countries.”

PIPA said they requested tens of thousands of euros in compensation per victim in the current case, TUV1.

The first judgment on the final amount of compensation is expected on September 16, 2021.

However, tens of thousands of victims elsewhere in the world have been left both physically and mentally scarred by the faulty implants, with no compensation given.

Latin America was the worst hit region, in particular Colombia, where there are roughly 60,000 victims. In the UK it is thought 47,000 women are affected.