Biopersistant Silicone

From the late 1980’s until the late 1990’s, a cadre of public health zealots waged war against various silicone medical devices, but especially against silicone gel breast implants.  Their charge was that silicone degraded in vivo to silica, and that it caused autoimmune disease.  Their supposed method:  weight of the evidence.

I recall sitting next to Professor Carl Cranor at a meeting in Washington, D.C.  When the subject of silicone gel breast implants came up, he started trash talking the exonerative epidemiology.  When I introduced myself and told him that I represented one of the defendants in that litigation, he got up and moved.  Thankfully.

In 1999, the Institute of Medicine issued its consensus report that debunked the plaintiffs’ attempts to draw a causal connection between silicone and autoimmune disease.  Stuart Bondurant, et al., Safety of Silicone Breast Implants (1999).   The phrases “weight of the evidence” or “weight of evidence” are never mentioned in the report, over 500 pages long.

Recently, the silicone plaintiffs’ causal theory has resurfaced. There has been no new important evidence, but with the scientific community’s attention drawn elsewhere, some old zealots and some new have wandered back into the field to recycle the claims and hypotheses that consumed lawyers and scientists in the last century.

Last year saw a review by Yehuda Shoenfeld and his Israeli colleagues, who describe a “new” syndrome that manifests with various immune-system disturbances.  These authors call their syndrome ASIA (autoimmune syndrome induced by adjuvant). M. Lidar, N. Agmon-Levin, P. Langevitz, and Y. Shoenfeld, “Silicone and scleroderma revisited,” 21 Lupus 121 (2012).

Shoenfeld, who has dabbled with this theory for 20 years, acknowledges that the epidemiologic studies fail to support the ASIA notion.  Despite the lack of support from controlled, observational studies, these authors proceed to describe “the mechanisms by which silicone may mediate autoimmunity in general, as well as the evidence for causal associations with more specific autoimmune syndromes in general, and scleroderma in particular.”  Id. at 121.

Last month, an article was published online with a collection of case reports from the Netherlands. Jan Tervaert & R. M. Kappel, “Silicone implant incompatibility syndrome (SIIS):A frequent cause of ASIA (Shoenfeld’s syndrome),” 56 Immunologic Research (2013), published online, April 2013.  The authors employ Shoenfeld’s criteria for ASIA, and postulate a causal relationship between silicone implants and the syndrome in 32 cases.

This month, the assault has stepped up.  Yehuda Shoenfeld, “Video Q&A: what is ASIA? An interview with Yehuda Shoenfeld,” 11 BMC Medicine 118 (2013). The video of Dr. Shoenfeld is also available for those who may find it hard to believe that article has found its way into print.

Silicone.  It never goes away.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Comments are closed.