Warning Labeling on Roundup No Longer Required in California

Plaintiffs in Roundup trials received disheartening news as the federal government sided with Monsanto in the ongoing Roundup controversy this past week. On Aug. 7, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a statement that it will no longer approve of product labels in California claiming that glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup, is carcinogenic.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler made a statement on behalf of the agency, saying, "It is irresponsible to require labels on products that are inaccurate when EPA knows the product does not pose a cancer risk. We will not allow California's flawed program to dictate federal policy."

Bayer has also dismissed claims that the company was planning to settle all Roundup litigation against them for $8 billion. The company believes such a settlement is "pure fantasy." Per Bayer’s CEO, the company is only interested in a settlement on “reasonable terms.”

Opioid Crisis

Recent Litigation and Tonsillectomy Study Reveal Overprescription of Opioids

Dr. Sanjay Kumar, 53, of New Bern, North Carolina, was convicted on Monday for 13 counts of various crimes, including illegal distribution of oxycodone without a legitimate medical purpose. North Carolina prosecutors say the doctor, who ran his own sports medicine and rehabilitation practice, wrote more than 9,500 opioid prescriptions between 2011 and 2016—typically without prior examination— in what's been described as a "cash-only pharmaceutical enterprise." Now, Kumar, who has not had his medical license renewed since 2017, faces significant jail time and fines.

In scientific news, a study published in JAMA Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery found that doctors are still prescribing opioids for 60% of tonsillectomies in the U.S, despite 2011 guidelines that recommend against prescribing opioids to children following tonsillectomies. 

Talc Trials

Legal Developments
Johnson & Johnson Aims to Discredit Findings of Asbestos in Talcum Powder

On Monday, a New Jersey court deliberated over claims that four men were exposed to asbestos in J&J’s baby powder when they were babies, which caused their terminal cancer. Jack Nolan, an attorney representing Johnson & Johnson (J&J), refuted science consultant Steven Compton’s assertion that he had found asbestos fibers and bundles of asbestos fibers in J&J's products. The pharmaceutical giant stands by its insistence that its products are non-toxic and non-carcinogenic.

The discussion brought up a relevant point on the way asbestos is being scientifically identified within talc powder. It’s likely J&J will hold out on its claims that the referenced fibers are too small to accurately indicate the presence of asbestos.

On Tuesday, J&J attorney Diane Sullivan called former J&J toxicologist John Hopkins to testify that the company’s product “never” contained asbestos, though they did admit to including non-asbestos versions of minerals commonly classified as asbestos. 

Meanwhile, attorney Mark Robinson has issued an appeal to the California Supreme Court to reinstate the compensation and punitive fines issued for the case of Eva Echeverria. Robinson claimed that the appeals court had incorrectly applied the law and ignored precedent that would implicate J&J as responsible for failing and continuing to fail to protect women by adding warnings to their talcum powder.


Public Health
Struggles for HIV Treatment and Prevention

On Aug. 12, Alabama announced it is redoubling its efforts to bring HIV testing to rural areas with less access to healthcare. The bulk of the initiative focuses on 28 counties in South Alabama, but lawmakers comment that poverty, hospital closures and a lack of primary care doctors are slowing efforts.

In New York, pharmacies are being investigated for defrauding Medicare through PrEP pill buybacks. An unnamed source told the Queens Daily Eagle that pharmacies would pay residents money, use their HIV prevention pills to fill other residents’ prescriptions, and bill Medicare for many times the number of pills they were actually buying. Those who sold their HIV prevention medications would then use that money to support themselves.

West Virginia has recently seen an increase in HIV diagnosis, with state officials claiming intravenous needle sharing and a lack of HIV prevention medication has created a “surge” in HIV infection. The incline began in March of this year and has continued with 71 new infections in a single county. 

Among other concerns for those living with HIV, some patients have reportedly claimed that the HIV medication, tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF) has contributed to kidney disease and loss of bone density. Additionally, in a news release on Thursday, a study was published linking a higher occurrence of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), coughs, heart disease, pregnancy mortality and sepsis, anemia and bone fractures to HIV positive individuals.


Legal Developments
JUUL Files Lawsuit Against the FDA While Hit With False Marketing Allegations

In conjunction with several other e-cigarette companies, JUUL has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over the deadline the administration set for the company to submit e-cigarettes for approval. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court of Kentucky, alleges that the FDA’s requirements to have e-cigarettes submitted for FDA approval by May is unfair to e-cigarette businesses and could put smaller e-cigarette companies out of business. The FDA deadline was set based on a lawsuit filed by anti-tobacco groups who argue that e-cigarettes must be proven to be a public health benefit.

Lastly, officials of Lake County, Illinois and West Virginia have filed class-action lawsuits this week alleging that JUUL Labs is guilty of marketing nicotine products to minors.