July 20, 2018 / 4:01 PM / 3 months ago

Bayer to phase out Essure birth control device in U.S.

NEW YORK, July 20 (Reuters) - Healthcare company Bayer on Friday said it would discontinue the sale of its birth control product Essure in the United States, citing a decline in sales of the implantable device which made the business no longer sustainable.

Friday's decision follows an announcement by the company in September 2017 to discontinue the sale of the contentious sterilization device in all countries outside the United States.

Bayer in a statement said the decision was not related to safety concerns.

"The benefit-risk profile of Essure has not changed, and we continue to stand behind the product's safety and efficacy, which are demonstrated by an extensive body of research," the company said.

As of January, Ludwigsburg, Germany-based Bayer is facing some 16,000 U.S. lawsuits over Essure. The company said it was expecting additional lawsuits.

Plaintiffs allege that Essure, which is implanted in a woman's fallopian tubes to permanently block an egg's passage to the uterus, could pierce the tubes.

The women claim that metal parts of the device can become loose and migrate into other body parts, causing pain, injuries and severe bleeding. They also claim that the device failed to prevent unwanted pregnancies and led to nickel allergies and depression.

The women who sued Bayer allege the German drugmaker knew of the risks associated with Essure, but failed to warn sellers, doctors and regulators of the dangers.

Steven Immergut, a Bayer spokesman, said the company had sold roughly two million Essure devices worldwide since the product came on the market in 2002.

The majority of those sales were in the U.S. Since then, the company has seen an average 40 percent annual decline in U.S. sales, Immergut said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration was not immediately available for comment. (Reporting by Tina Bellon; editing by Clive McKeef)

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