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Implant makers: No link to health problems

Makers of silicone gel breast implants told a federal advisory panel Wednesday that any connection between the implants and health problems is coincidental.

The four companies, including the primary maker of the implants, Dow Corning, used slides and outside experts to try to convince the panel of the devices' safety. The implants were marketed for 30 years but pulled temporarily from the market by the Food and Drug Administration on Jan. 7.

An estimated 1-million to 2-million American women carry the implants _ many because they have lost a breast to cancer.

Rep. Marilyn Lloyd, who would like an implant but who has been stopped by the FDA moratorium, told the panel: "I and others like me are caught in limbo.

Lloyd had a mastectomy after breast cancer was diagnosed. "I now wear an uncomfortable prosthesis and am reminded every day of my experience with cancer."

A plastic surgeon, speaking at his own expense but on behalf of a manufacturer, agreed with Lloyd. "If gel implants are banned, the FDA will be forcing me to mistreat some of my patients," Dr. John Tebbetts said.

But a group of angry patients, calling themselves American Silicone Implant Survivors, said surgeons weren't to be trusted.

"The plastic surgeon to whom these women should now turn was a source of incomplete, inaccurate and sometimes fraudulent information, .


." group founder Janet Van Winkle said.

On Tuesday, several doctors told the panel that many implant users suffer from illnesses ranging from minor flu-like symptoms to autoimmune disease, a condition in which antibodies attack body tissue.

But Carl Schulz, a professor of immunology hired to speak for a manufacturer, Wednesday said any connection between the implants and "autoimmune disease is likely to be coincidental, rather than a cause-and-effect relationship."

FDA Commissioner David Kessler said the agency will make a decision within 60 days after the panel gives its advice today.