Latin America & Caribbean

Venezuela offers free removal of faulty breast implants

Venezuelan Vera Aulestia, 26, who has breast implants from the now-bankrupt Poly Implant Prothese (PIP), shows the boxes of the product, during an interview with AFP, in Caracas on 23 December 2011.
Image caption Venezuelan Vera Aulestia is among women who had PIP implants

Venezuela's government has offered to pay for the removal of breast implants feared to be at risk of rupture.

The authorities would cover the cost of the surgery for Venezuelan women but would not pay for replacement implants, Health Minister Eugenia Sader said.

Ms Sader said many implants made by French firm Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) had been imported illegally.

The French authorities have recommended that 30,000 French women have the PIP implants removed as a precaution.

The French government, which stresses that there is no evidence of a cancer link, has said it will cover the cost.

The implants were banned in several countries last year after they were found to contain industrial grade silicone filler, making them more liable to split.

The French authorities have opened a criminal investigation into the company which went into administration in 2010.

Global market

Ms Sader said that patients who were worried could go to hospital for a check-up and have surgery to remove the implants if they wished.

The Venezuelan government would not, however, pay for new implants, the state news agency AVN quoted her as saying.

The health minister said that a significant number of PIP implants had been brought into Venezuela without the proper authorisation.

"They were implanted illegally and now those patients are at risk," she said.

Breast augmentation surgery is popular in Venezuela, where implants are sometimes given to girls as a 15th birthday present.

More than 300,000 implants are believed to have been sold globally by PIP over the past 12 years in some 65 countries.

More than half of its exports went to South America.

In Brazil, some 25,000 women are believed to have had PIP implants.

In Argentina, a group of some 50 women have said they will sue their plastic surgeons if they do not get free replacement for their PIP implants.

Western Europe was another major market. Spain, Italy, Germany and Ukraine are known to have imported PIP silicon sacs.

It is thought some 40,000 British women have the implants.

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