The implants in question were not sold in the U.S., where concerns about silicone gel implants overall led to a 14-year ban on their use. Silicone implants were brought back to the market in 2006 after research ruled out cancer, lupus and some other concerns, but the FDA still cautions that implants of any kind can rupture or cause other problems.
PIP ultimately went out of business, and regulators across Europe began demanding calls for tighter oversight of medical devices.
According to various government estimates, over 42,000 women in Britain received the implants, more than 30,000 in France, 25,000 in Brazil and 15,000 in Colombia. Venezuela, where PIP implants were hugely popular, offered free removals for the estimated 16,000 women with the implants, as did France.
Mas, his deputy Claude Couty, the quality director Hannelore Font, technical director Loic Gossart, and products chief Thierry Brinon face the possibility of five years in prison if convicted.
France has no system of class-action lawsuits, but people who feel they are victims can join criminal cases. Many of the women from abroad said they hoped a French decision in their favor would ultimately help them at home.
But that could prove more difficult because PIP is bankrupt, said Deborah Hensler, a Stanford University law professor who specializes in mass litigation.
"No lawyer would be willing to take on a case where she knows that in the end there's no way for the plaintiffs to recover," Hensler said.
Among the French women at Wednesday's trial, there seemed to be little expectation of reward.
"Women have lost their jobs because of him, their health because of him," said Joelle Manighetti, a French woman who received the implants after breast cancer surgery and blogs about her experiences. "With the way he has treated us from the beginning, I'm not expecting much from him."
Associated Press writer Libardo Cardona contributed from Bogota, Colombia.
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