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In response to continuing concerns about the risk of power morcellators used during hysterectomies spreading cancer, another health insurance company has announced that it will no longer cover the laparoscopic uterine fibroid removal procedures
In a press release issued on September 18, Capital BlueCross announced it will no longer pay for laparoscocpic hysterectomy morcellation procedures, notifying its customers that it will not cover the procedures after November 1.
“The safety and long-term health of our customers is vitally important to Capital BlueCross,” Dr. Jennifer Chambers, senior vice president and chief medical officer, said in the statement. “As a leading health insurer, we are counted on to help safeguard the health of those entrusted to us, which is why we are no longer providing coverage for procedures involving a Power Morcellator.”
The move comes after a number health experts and law makers have called for power morcellator recalls to be issued, and a growing number of hysterectomy morcellation lawsuits have been filed on behalf of women diagnosed with the spread of leiomyosarcoma, endometrial stromal sarcoma or other uterine cancers that were contained prior to the procedure.
Power Morcellator Cancer Risks
Power morcellators are surgical tools commonly used in recent years during laparoscopic hysterectomy or myomectomy procedures to remove uterine fibroids. The devices cut up or morcellate the uterus or fibroids, allowing surgeons to remove the tissue through a small hole in the abdomen.
The minimally invasive laparoscopic uterine fibroid surgery is designed to reduce recovery time, minimize scarring and avoid complications associated with traditional procedures. However, concerns have emerged in recent years about the risk of spreading aggressive uterine cancers with the devices, since some women undergoing the procedures may have unsuspected sarcoma contained within their uterus, which doctors are unable to diagnose prior to the surgery.
In April, the FDA issued warnings urging doctors to stop using power morcellators during hysterectomy or uterine fibroid removal surgeries. The agency estimated that one out of every 350 women undergoing surgery with morcellation may have unsuspected sarcoma contained within the uterus, which doctors are unable to detect prior to the procedure.
When morcellators are used to grind up the uterus or uterine fibroids for removal, the device may cause the spread of aggressive cancer cells throughout a woman’s body cavity, sending the cancer rapidly into its most advanced and deadly stages.
Move Away from Power Morcellation
Capital BlueCross is the latest in a number of prominent organizations to indicate that they have determined the cancer risks with power morcellation outweigh the potential benefits.
Chambers pointed out in the press release that there are a number of gynecological alternatives for women.
Earlier this summer, two FDA advisory committees met to review the scientific data surrounding the cancer risk with power morcellators, but could not decide whether to recommend a recall or simply a black box label warning. However, the committees agreed that there appears to be no way to make morcellation safe for removing uterine fibroids.
Following these meetings, Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon subsidiary issued a power morcellator recall, voluntarily announcing that it is getting out of the morcellation business. The company previously held more than 70% of the market for the surgical tool.
Several other insurance companies have also pledged to stop covering the devices, and a number of doctors and hospitals have taken the agency’s advice nationwide.
Hysterectomy Morcellator Cancer Lawsuits
As women and families learn that cases of aggressive uterine cancers diagnosed following a laparoscopic hysterectomy or myomectomy may have been caused by morcellation, questions are being raised about why adequate warnings were not provided and whether manufacturers failed to make the devices as safe as they could have been.
A number of uterine fibroid morcellation lawsuits are now being pursued on behalf of individuals diagnosed with the spread of cancer following a hysterectomy or myomectomy performed laparoscopically or through robotic surgery.
Plaintiffs allege that as they were originally designed and sold, power morcellators are unreasonably dangerous. In addition, women claim that they may have avoided spreading cancer throughout their body if information about the risk had been provided to the medical community, since a number of alternative treatment options are available for women with symptomatic uterine fibroids, including traditional surgical hyesterectomy performed vaginally or abdominally, catheter-based blocking of the uterine artery, high-intensity focused ultrasound, drug therapy and laparoscopic hysterectomy or myomectomy without use of morcellation.