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Jun 7, 2012 8:40 PM by Jacqui Heinrich

Venezuela court: Replace faulty implants for free

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - Venezuela's Supreme Court has sided with women who have defective French-made breast implants, saying in a preliminary injunction that the cost of removing and replacing the implants should be paid by surgeons, hospitals and a company that imported them.

The court announced in a statement Thursday that it was taking up a suit brought by the country's public ombudswoman. While the suit progresses, the court ordered the company Galaxia Medica as well as surgeons and private hospitals to remove and replace leaking implants for free.

Thousands of women in Venezuela have the breast implants, which were made with industrial-grade silicone by the now-defunct French company Poly Implant Prothese, or PIP.

Gilberto Andrea, a lawyer representing more than 2,000 women who received the implants, praised the measure and said a lawsuit is still pending seeking additional damages. He said an estimated 33,000 women have the implants in Venezuela and that the court's initial decision "is a measure for all of those affected."

The cost of replacing PIP implants with those made by other brands ranges from about $5,000 to about $9,000, which is beyond the budgets of many women, said Sandy Contreras, who heads an association of women who have received the implants.

She said both she and her 24-year-old daughter have the implants, but so far they haven't ruptured as they have in the cases of other women.

Contreras said about the court decision, "We're extremely happy."

Breast enlargement surgery is common in Venezuela, and the PIP brand was used frequently until the implants were pulled from the market in 2010.

The company Galaxia Medica did not immediately respond to the court's decision.

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