“To go faster, we are going to launch a civil procedure for lack of information“against Philips, announced Thursday, September 8 on franceinfo Me. Christophe Lèguevaques, lawyer at the Paris bar. He represents 1,411 victims of defective Philips brand respirators. A preliminary investigation was opened after the complaint of several users of Philips respirators , especially used against sleep apnea, which are suspected of causing headaches, asthma, coughs and even cancers.
franceinfo: Is the opening of a preliminary investigation good news?
Mr. Christophe Lèguevaques: This is good news, we will be able to move forward, finally have verified information. We had some information from the FDA [Food and Drug Administration, l’administration américaine des denrées alimentaires et des médicaments]. We will be able to know what is happening in France. What is important is to know since when Philips knows the dangerousness of these products. It seems to be since 2015, which means that since 2015 for economic and industrial reasons Philips has endangered the lives of patients.
What do you urgently need from Philips?
There are two ongoing proceedings. The first makes it possible to sanction the reprehensible behavior of Philips. To go faster, we are going to launch a civil procedure for lack of information. It’s a bit like what we did in the Levothyrox case, which was a winner, and which allowed patients to be compensated more quickly than with criminal proceedings. Civilly, we can hope that in five years, it will be fixed. In criminal cases, we leave for ten years.
What will this investigation allow?
This will prevent Philips from opposing the famous business secrecy for not communicating. Therefore, it is useful for the manifestation of the truth.
We were seized urgently in February and we launched the collective action in March. So we have been on this file for six months. Since then, I have been touring France to meet patients, to advise them to file a complaint. This is bearing fruit since 3,600 reports have been made to the ANSM (the National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products). It is a strong signal that is sent by the patients to the health authorities. We try to collect information from all over the world since the problem is global. In the United States, dozens of collective actions have been launched.
For the moment, no link has been established between these respirators and cancer. What are the main defects observed?
People suffer from sleep apnea and it can be life threatening. To fight against sleep apnea the respirator will send air pulsated by a motor into the lungs through a mask. This device makes noise and the manufacturers have tried to cover this noise with polyurethane foam. This foam is a problem because it breaks down over time and the plastic debris is sucked into the respirator and sent deep into the lung. These debris are potentially carcinogenic. This is what the product leaflet issued by the European Commission says.
In 2021, Philips recognized that there were some problems and replaced the faulty machines. What is the current situation?
One gets the impression that this global industry leader is not living up to its promises. When we announce the withdrawal of devices that are dangerous, we make sure to prepare for this withdrawal. Today, we see that in France only a third of the devices have been replaced. We have the feeling that there are two weights, two measures. In France, the market is not as interesting as abroad since there, Philips sells the devices to individuals, therefore more expensive. In France, it is bought by professionals and therefore less expensive.
Philips’ response is not up to par?
These are medical products and it looks like they have been treated like common industrial products. The National Health Agency organized a meeting on June 8 between Philips, patient associations and ANSM experts. A toxicology expert asked a question: “Mr. Philips can you tell us that the polyurethane you use has been approved for medical use? There was a flutter. “We have to check“. 10 years after this medical device was put on the market, Philips is not able to guarantee that the polyurethane used was for medical purposes. were not suitable.