JUUL Under Scrutiny in North Carolina

In May, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein sued the e-cigarette company JUUL for “deceptively downplaying the potency and danger of the nicotine.” This month brings new obstacles for the popular nicotine product which company representatives explain is "designed to help adult smokers switch from combustible cigarettes to alternative nicotine delivery." 

As reported by CNN, Connecticut Attorney General William Tong and the state's consumer protection commissioner, Michelle H. Seagull believe the company misled the public to believe JUUL is an effective smoking cessation device, despite not being approved as such by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Investigations are underway.

Additionally, researchers at Yale University published findings that raise concern for previously unknown dangers in JUUL electronic cigarette liquids. Their study focused particularly on the effects of the common JUUL flavoring vanillin—which may irritate airways when resulting acetals are combined with the vapor that JUUL e-cigarettes release. Vanillin can be found in flavors like “Crème Brulée,” “Fruit Medley” and “Cool Cucumber.”

JUUL representatives refuted Yale's findings, claiming that the risk assessment model "assumes a person would inhale only aerosolized vapor for eight hours per day, 5 days per week, for decades." Further research on the health impacts of JUUL e-cigarettes is necessary.


America Struggle With Fentanyl Addiction

Yale University and Mayo Clinic have recently been awarded a $5.3 million grant to research opioid use. Tracking 1,200 patients who have been prescribed short-acting opioids over the course of 180 days, the research will reveal how opioids impact patient activity and sleep patterns while also assessing what patients do with their unused opioids. This information will help inform future prescription practices and ideally reduce the number of opioids left after patient pain has stopped, as these spare pills can find their way into idle hands.

In other opioid matters, Bay area's Kim Thien Le was charged this week with impersonating a pharmacist—illegally filling more than 745,000 prescriptions in the San Francisco Bay Area. Prosecutors say that from late 2006 through 2017, Le used the license numbers of registered pharmacists in order to impersonate them and dispense prescriptions at Walgreens pharmacies in Santa Clara and Alameda counties, as reported by The New York Times. Lee's prescriptions included more than 100,000 for opioids such as fentanyl, morphine and codeine.

Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, opioid overdose fatalities have notably increased. Local Wisconsin news publication, The Gazette, notes that the Rock County Public Health Department saw an increase of "potential opioid-related overdose hospitalizations" between July 15 and July 29. In Milwaukee County, one medical examiner reported 14 overdose deaths from Friday, July 26 through Sunday, July 28.

Dane County has also been affected by the worsening opioid crisis in Wisconsin, reporting six overdoses at hospitals between July 14 and July 22. Officials believe the rise in overdoses is the result of a "bad batch” of heroin, probably laced with fentanyl.

Talcum Powder

Legal Developments
Johnson & Johnson Double Down in Talc Claims

In a New Jersey trial last week, Johnson & Johnson representative John Hopkins confirmed that "there has not been a single fiber of asbestos in any talc or its Johnson's Baby Powder or Shower to Shower moves in the last week during discussions of talc litigation."

This past Tuesday, in a Kentucky trial, Hopkins was asked to confirm that Johnson & Johnson had "told the public that there has not been a single fiber of asbestos in any talc or its Johnson's Baby Powder or Shower to Shower product."

When Hopkins commented that he hadn't seen that claim made by J&J in the documents, the questioning lawyer referenced Hopkins' earlier testimony from the New Jersey trial. Hopkins went on to agree that J&J had never rejected any talc powder "for the presence of amphibole asbestos."

While Johnson & Johnson remains under question in its slew of talc lawsuits, an eight-day expert-witness examination has concluded this week. The results of the examination will determine whether the witnesses in question will be able to offer their expert testimonies in over 12,000 cases pending trial. For more on these proceedings, click here.


Legal Developments
Bayer Buckles Under Roundup Litigations and Low Demand

Bloomberg reported on Tuesday that the German pharmaceutical company Bayer saw its shares drop 4% as a consequence of recent swells in lawsuits against the company's controversial herbicide, Roundup. That lawsuit number rose "by about 5,000 to 18,400," according to a statement from Bayer. 

The bans on its popular weedkiller have not stopped. This week, Santa Barbara announced plans to eliminate the use of RoundUp in the city's parks as part of its update Integrated Pest Management Program. Now, they will use neem oil—a natural product—to combat insects and fungus.

As bans and lawsuits increase, however, the demand for Bayer's RoundUp continues to plunge—even in North America. In addition to heavy flooding which delayed planting season for farmers in the U.S., America's trade tensions with China has curbed demand for herbicides altogether. In Europe, a particularly dry season has also led to a plunge in herbicide sales.

As Reuters reports, "Bayer has seen its market value slashed by more than 30 billion euros since August last year, when a California jury, in the first such lawsuit, found that Monsanto should have warned of the alleged cancer risks." Time will reveal what Bayer is valued at, but the company, itself, admits that its 2019 earnings target has become significantly harder to reach.

Transvaginal Mesh

Transvaginal Mesh Slammed at Home and Abroad

Johnson & Johnson faces further legal onslaught in their lawsuit over the product, Prolift, with the state of California. The pelvic mesh device, made by J&J subsidiary, Ethicon, is known for causing vaginal injuries in women. Johnson & Johnson has been accused of selling the product through use of deceptive marketing practices. 

The Northern California Record reports that this Tuesday, pelvic reconstructive obstetrician and gynecological surgeon Dr. Michael Margolis compared "the difficulty in removing pelvic mesh from a woman's vagina like using a hammer and chisel to remove rebar in a sidewalk while protecting underground cables." 

Margolis explained that part of this difficulty can be attributed to the way the slings of mesh cements themselves into the vaginal tissue with time. When women seek removal months following their initial implant surgery, in many cases, it's already too late for effective removal.

While Johnson & Johnson faces litigation in California, Taiwan calls for a complete ban on transvaginal mesh, which is headed by Democratic Progressive Party legislator Lin Shu-Fen and Women's Link founder Huang Sue-Ying.

"Reports of complications associated with transvaginal meshes in Taiwan increased from 59 cases in 2013 to 303 cases in 2017, and some patients might not even be aware that their discomfort could be the result of complications caused by the implants," said Lin, according to the Taipei Times.