LONDON (AP) - The British government launched an investigation Saturday into whether potentially faulty breast implants fitted by a French company pose a risk to women.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley ordered the urgent review of the safety of silicon implants made by the now-defunct French company Poly Implant Prothese after saying he had received new information about them.
The implants were pulled off the market last year in countries around Europe and South America amid fears they could rupture and leak silicone into the body.
France's health safety agency said the implants appear to be more rupture-prone than other types. French investigators also said PIP used industrial silicone instead of the medical variety to save money. However, the medical risks posed by industrial silicone are unclear.
Around 40,000 women in Britain have such implants.
Britain's Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency had said it did not see enough proof of cancer or an excessive risk of rupture to recommend women in Britain have the implants removed, but Lansley said the newly received data prompted the government decision to investigate.
"I want to reassure women that if any new data comes to light which calls into question the safety of these implants, we will act swiftly to help them," he said. "Our top priority is making sure that women get the correct advice so that they are kept safe."
Lansley said Britain's medical regulator would also carry out an audit of the content and quality of data that cosmetic surgery providers share with authorities.
Prof. Bruce Keogh, the medical director of Britain's National Health Service, will lead the investigation.
France's health system has recommended that women with the PIP implants get them replaced and has agreed to pay for surgeries.
Brazil said Friday that it has permanently banned PIP implants, but did not guarantee that the state would pay for women to have them agreed.
Earlier in the week, Venezuela said it would offer free surgery for women to remove the PIP implants, and in Argentina 50 women threatened to sue their plastic surgeons if they don't get free replacements of the implants.