FDA will not ban textured breast implants at this time

After reports of a type of cancer linked to some breast implants, FDA considers adding black box warning.
Close-up of lopsided breast implants on a table
A contoured implant on right, round implant on left.LockieCurrie / Getty Images

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By Lauren Dunn

Almost one month after an emotional hearing on breast implant safety, the Food and Drug Administration announced it would not ban textured breast implants, which have been linked to a type of lymphoma.

Allergan’s textured implants have already been yanked off the market over safety concerns in 38 countries, including France and most recently Canada. But the FDA said Thursday there isn’t enough evidence to warrant a ban in the United States.

"At this time, the FDA does not believe that, on the basis of all available data and information, the device meets the banning standard set forth in the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act," the agency said Thursday.

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The implants, which have a rough, sandpaper-like surface, are linked to breast implant associated-anaplastic large cell lymphoma or BIA-ALCL, a cancer of the immune system that can be deadly if it’s not treated early enough. In the United States, 457 women have been diagnosed with the disease. Worldwide, 17 have died.

“This disease is still so grossly underestimated and we will continue to see more deaths and diagnosed women,” Michelle Forney, who was diagnosed with BIA-ALCL last year, said. “However, not banning textured implants because it doesn’t meet a banning standard from a legislative act gives me more concern that our country cannot protect us or our children from other cancer-causing devices.“

The agency says it plans to work with patient groups and manufacturers to make changes to the labels of textured implants that could include a black box warning — the FDA’s strictest caution.

Manufacturers will also be required to submit adverse event reports instead of the current practice of quarterly summary reports, and details of these will now be made available to the public.

“We are considering these actions to help to ensure that all women who consider breast implants have the information they need to have thoughtful and balanced discussions with their health care professional about both the benefits and risks of breast implants based on clear information reflecting the most current understanding of these issues,” the FDA said in a statement.

Critics fear the moves don’t go far enough to protect women.

“That’s important for making information available to researchers and advocates, but it probably won’t help most patients or physicians be better informed,” President of the National Center For Health Research Diana Zuckerman told NBC News.

The FDA first identified a possible link between breast implants and ALCL in 2011. It’s unclear how common the disease is. The agency cites incidence rates between 1 in 3,000 and 1 in 30,000.

But an NBC News investigation in conjunction with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists last year found that ALCL could be an emerging risk for women, with the odds of developing the cancer as high as 1 in 1,000 women.

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