FBI investigating Johnson & Johnson device that may spread uterine cancer

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson is being investigated by the FBI over a controversial surgical tool that may be putting women's lives at risk.

The device is the power morcellator, which is meant to remove things like tumors from the uterus. It is also the device used most in hysterectomies. It breaks up fibroids or benign tumors in the uterus. But they're suspected of spreading cancer cells in some women.

Now some hospitals, including some here in the Bay Area, are pulling the devices for safety reasons.

Doctor Amy Reed from Boston has only gotten more sick since her hysterectomy last year.

Doctors cleared her for cancer before the procedure. But after, they found a rare form of cancer. She blames the device and she wants it banned.

"At no point in time did anyone ever say, well you know because you had it morcellated, that worsens your prognosis, that's something we discovered on our own," said Reed.

"If you disrupt the mass it's like a bee's hive. If you start chopping it up the bees spread and you're in trouble," said Hooman Noorchashm, Reed's husband.

But the FBI probe finds in up to one in 350 cases where there's a hidden cancer, the spinning blades spray cancer cells, causing them to spread.

"The FDA has no idea how many women had cancer spread by being treated with this device. But the idea that anyone was harmed is very concerning," said Richard Besser, ABC News Chief Health and Medical Editor.

Johnson & Johnson is the largest manufacturer of the product. Johnson and Johnson was first alerted to the risks back in 2006, but voluntarily pulled the device just last year.

But the FBI wants to know exactly what they knew about the risks and for how long.

Last year the FDA issued its most serious black box warning about the morcellator.
Copyright © 2020 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.