Interpol on Friday issued a “red notice” seeking the arrest of Frenchman Jean-Claude Mas, founder of the breast implant company at the center of a widespread women’s health scare.
Mas, 72, whose picture appears on the Interpol Web site, is listed as being sought in Costa Rica for offenses concerning “life and health.”
France’s health ministry on Friday advised 30,000 women with breast implants made by the now-bankrupt Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) to have them removed and offered to pay for the procedure, saying that while there is no proven cancer risk, they could rupture.
Tens of thousands of women in more than 65 countries around the world have the same implants, made from industrial rather than medical quality silicone. Most of them live in South America and western Europe.
About 42,000 women in Britain are thought to have the implants, according to a government watchdog, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.
The agency said it had received 411 reports of PIP implants failing in British patients since 2001.
More than 250 British women are taking court action against clinics where they had operations to insert PIP implants, and others are expected to follow suit.
PIP, once the world’s third--largest breast implant company supplying more than 100,000 implants a year, was shut down and its products banned last year after it was revealed to have been using the non-authorized silicone gel.
Interpol’s red notice is tantamount to an international arrest warrant, though the agency, as a facilitator of cooperation among national police forces, does not have the authority to issue warrants in the formal sense.
France took a costly and unprecedented leap in offering to pay for 30,000 women to have their breast implants removed.
Over the past week, the safety fears have created a public furor over something usually kept private, even in France. Women, some whose own families did not know they had their breasts enlarged, marched on Paris to demand more attention to worries about what might be happening inside them. Images of leaky, blubbery implants and women having mammograms have been splashed on French TV.
More than 1,000 ruptures pushed French Health Minister Xavier Bertrand to recommend that the estimated 30,000 women in France with the implants get them removed at the state’s expense.
Bertrand insisted the removals would be “preventive” and not urgent, and French health authorities said they had found nothing to link the implants to nine cases of cancer in women. The death last month of a woman who had the implants and developed a rare cancer — anaplastic large-cell lymphoma — had catalyzed worries.
France’s health safety agency says the PIP implants appear to be more rupture-prone than other types. Also, investigators say PIP used industrial silicone instead of the medical variety to save money. However, the medical risks posed by industrial silicone are unclear.
The financial burden of the French government’s decision falls on the state healthcare system, which estimated the removals could cost 60 million euros (US$78 million) at a time when the country is teetering on the brink of another recession and struggling with debt.
In recommending removal, the government noted the risks associated with major surgery and general anesthesia.
Because of those risks, many women may decide against removal. The government said those women should be examined every six months.