What was it?
At first glance, it sounds like something you might hear in a science fiction movie - "Kirk, activate the Dalkon Shield!!!
Here in the real world though, the Dalkon shield was probably the worst product ever introduced upon American women when it comes to the subject of IUD’s and birth control. In just five short years after its introduction in 1971, over eighteen deaths, hundreds upon hundreds of septic abortions and countless thousands of infections that often resulted in sterility were attributed to the Dalkon Shield. When all was said and done, a class action suit numbering over 161,000 women (Most investigators familiar with the case believe this number is in fact understated) claiming personal injury was filed against its manufacturer, a company that went by the name of A.H. Robins.
What did it look like?
First of all, it was made of plastic. Now, picture if you will a bug with one large round eye in its center. On each side of its body, this bug has five legs. The tail of the bug is what makes it unique. Instead of being a single strand that would make up the tail, this bug had a tail that was consisted of many fibers (strings) that wound together to the form the tail and then was covered by a sheath. This is where the problems started.
Hell yeah, it seems that these fibers (strings) were a breeding ground for all sorts of wonderful bacteria. They were carried from the vagina, into the uterus and wound up camping out in the fallopian tubes. Once there, they were free to wreak all sorts of havoc
What went wrong?
Since the Dalkon Shield was not classified by the FDA as a “drug”, it was not subject to the same stringent testing methods that normal products of that type are subject to. Couple that with the manufacturers desire to bring the product to market quickly and you have all the makings of a potential disaster.
So what happened?
After evidence about the Dalkon Shield began to roll in, the product was re-called in 1975. (Not to be deterred, the company still shipped the product overseas to developing countries for another 10 months or so) The class action suit eventually was successful and the company was forced set aside 2.5 billion dollars in a fund set up specifically for that purpose. A. H. Robins then declared bankruptcy and was subsequently taken over by another pharmaceutical giant by the name of American Home Products. Those are the same guys that recently agreed to set aside 4.38 billion dollars in order to pay out claims they anticipate in relation to the use of fen-phen, the wonder diet drug.