Wednesday, June 24, 2020

30,000 suits against weed-killer still in play

Bayer, parent of Monsanto, agrees to pay $10 billion to thousands who claim Roundup caused their cancer

Bayer AG has unexpectedly agreed to pay $10 billion in cancer settlements in regard to the world's most widely used weed-killer.

According to a story by Hannah Denham in The Washington Post, the German company, the world's largest seed and agrochemical maker that had merged with agribusiness giant Monsanto in a $63 billion deal, "will allocate between $8.8 billion and $9.6 billion to resolve the current Roundup litigation."

That will cover "75 percent of the 125,000 current filed and unfixed claims that the product leads to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma" — meaning that some 30,000 suits remain unsettled.

Judge Vince Chhabria
In addition, Bayer "will also pay $1.25 billion for a separate class agreement for potential future claims, which will be subject to approval in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California by Judge Vince Chhabria," Denham's piece reports.

Although agreed to, the settlements have yet to be signed and sealed.

At the time of the 2018 merger, and since, Monsanto has "maintained that glyphosate — the active weed-killing ingredient in Roundup — had a history of safe use, and Bayer has echoed that since its acquisition."

In 2015, however, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, an arm of the World Health Organization, proclaimed that the herbicide was "probably carcinogenic to humans."

Details of the settlements became public today, only one day after U.S. District Judge William Shubb, ignoring the verdicts of three California juries against Monsanto, had issued a permanent injunction against the state's requiring a warning label on the pesticide.

Plaintiffs in those cases had won nearly $300 million. Monsanto, however, will continue to appeal all of them, and the settlements — which involved negotiations with 25 different law firms — do not apply to any of the three.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs, according to EcoWatch, an environmental website, had “argued that the [Environmental Protection Agency's earlier] insistence that Roundup does not cause cancer is spurious since there was evidence the company had unduly influenced the federal agency and had ‘ghost-written’ purported research studies on the product’s safety.” 

EcoWatch strongly suggested that the settlement, one of the largest ever in U.S. civil litigation, came about because of "the spate of lawsuits and their legal fees [that made Bayer] lose 40 percent of its value."

The plaintiffs also alleged, the website's story said, that “Bayer manipulated studies and deceived the scientific community to make glyphosate seem safer than it actually is, according to Reuters.”

The Post article noted meanwhile that "Bayer said that the settlement was a unanimous decision from the company's board of management, supervisory board and input from the special litigation committee, adding that the settlement doesn't mean an admission of liability or wrongdoing."

The piece indicated further that "chief executive Werner Baumann said in a statement that the action allows the company to 'bring a long period of uncertainty to an end.'" 

More information on court cases alleging that products cause disease can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Verdicts of three California juries nixed

Federal judge sides with Monsanto, blocks cancer-warning labels from most widely used weed-killer

Ignoring the verdicts of three California juries, a federal judge ruled yesterday that the state can’t require a warning label on Roundup.

U.S. District Judge William Shubb
U.S. District Judge William Shubb, according to an Associated Press story, issued a permanent injunction against the labeling of the world’s most widely used weed-killer — despite plaintiffs in the three cases having won nearly $300 million after the juries agreed that glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup, Monsanto’s herbicide, causes non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other blood cancers.

The AP cited a contrary quote by Shubb in the San Francisco Chronicle to the effect that “the great weight of evidence indicates that glyphosate is not known to cause cancer.”

The U.S. District judge noted that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and similar agencies in Europe “haven’t found a connection between the chemical and cancer.”

The judge contended, according to the AP, that “the state couldn’t meet a legal standard” for requiring the labeling — in effect overturning California’s warning requisite on cancer-causing products under its Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act that was approved in 1986 by voters. 

California had wanted the labels based on a 2016 finding by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, an arm of the World Health Organization, that glyphosate "was probably a cause of cancer in humans.”

Monsanto, which is now owned by Bayer AG, a German chemical and pharmaceutical giant, sued to overturn that position and, in 2018, Shubb temporarily blocked the labeling. In his latest ruling, the judge suggested that the state can force a company to change its label only if the statement is purely factual and non-controversial — itself apparently a controversial posture.

The monster agribusiness, meanwhile, has appealed the verdicts in all three cases.

It had been facing some 125,000 lawsuits in spite of contending Roundup is safe. But of those cases — reports a story on the EcoWatch website that features “environmental news for a healthier planet and life” — Bayer “made a verbal agreement to settle 50,000 to 85,000 cases in May, awarding plaintiffs anywhere from a few thousand dollars to a few million, according to Fortune” magazine.

The reason for those settlements, EcoWatch speculated, is “the spate of lawsuits and their legal fees [that] made the company lose 40 percent of its value.”

Lawyers for the plaintiffs in those instances, that article continues, “argued that the EPA’s insistence that Roundup does not cause cancer is spurious since there was evidence the company had unduly influenced the federal agency and had ‘ghost-written’ purported research studies on the product’s safety.” 

The story also noted that the verdicts in the three cases with huge settlements, all of which are being appealed by Monsanto, came after the plaintiffs alleged that “Bayer manipulated studies and deceived the scientific community to make glyphosate seem safer than it actually is, according to Reuters.”

More information about lawsuits pertaining to products that may cause disease can be found in “Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner’s breast cancer,” a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Tenant being 'furloughed' creates sudden vacancy

Wife of 'Rollercoaster' author unexpectedly has empty Mill Valley apartment so she seeks new tenant 

This may be an offbeat item for this blog, Woody Weingarten's digital baby, but…

The one-bedroom in-law rental apartment in Mill Valley owned by my wife, Nancy Fox, is unexpectedly being vacated because the current tenant was suddenly "furloughed," necessitating her having to move in with her daughter a long distance away. 

It's be ready for occupancy July 1.

Yes, of course — this has virtually nothing to do with my VitalityPress book, "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," which I aimed at male caregivers, except that my wife is the volume's heroine.

Here are the apartment details:

Newly renovated, charming, unfurnished one-bedroom in-law unit in quiet Tam Valley section of Mill Valley. Private entrance in friendly, tree-lined residential neighborhood. 

Roughly 600 square feet, with large windows, wall-to-wall carpeting and lots of closet space. 

Private, large-volume washer and dryer, gas stove, oven and microwave.

Private patio. 

Off-street parking space included. 

Easy walk to Good Earth store, shopping center and Golden Gate bus stop. Fast commute to 101 and San Francisco. 

Rent: $2,100 per month (utilities not included). One-year lease. 

No smokers, no pets. 


• Move-in costs — $2,100 for first month's rent plus $3,150 (one and a half month's rent) for security deposit ($5,250 total). 

• Garbage removal included in rent. 

• Must have excellent credit and references. 

• Available July 1, 2020. Can be seen by appointment only (social distancing, masks required). 

Call or email Nancy Fox.
415-847-8150 and 415-847-8150

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Home remedies can work but beware side effects

Breast cancer prescription might lessen pain for those without the disease, Mayo Clinic suggests

Tamoxifen, a prescription drug used for breast cancer treatment and prevention, can also lessen breast tenderness for those without the disease.

The problem, of course, is that there are potential "side effects that may be more bothersome than the breast pain itself."

That information is part of a laundry list of pain remedies suggested by the Mayo Clinic News Network.

Home remedies on the list may be effective, the network says, despite their being little research about their efficacy.

Furthermore, a network story indicates, for "many women, breast pain solves on its own over time" so a sufferer "may not need any treatment" at all.

But methods worth trying, according to the non-bylined network article, include: putting hot and cold compresses on the tender breast; wearing a firm support bra, or a sorts bra during exercise; experimenting with relaxation therapy; limiting or cutting out caffeine; following a low-fat diet; and using over-the-counter meds such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Advil or Motrin (or virtually any other brand of ibuprofen).

The article also lists alternative medicines such as vitamins (Vitamin e) and dietary supplements (evening primrose oil).

Checking with your physician before attempting any of the above remedies is highly recommended — in regard to risks and whether the self-care treatments are appropriate for you, as well as for approved dosages.

According to the article, treatments by doctors might include topical non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, an adjustment of birth control pills, a reduction of menopausal hormone therapies, or a prescription medication (the aforementioned Tamoxifen or Danazol).

More information on treating pain and disease can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Less smoking may have aided drop in disease

Higher percentage of women now getting lung cancer, Time says, despite dip in mortality rates

Women now account for "disproportionately high number" of lung cancer diagnoses.

That's true despite overall mortality rates having "fallen significantly in recent decades" — and in spite of women traditionally having "smoked less than men and thus developed and died from lung cancer less often."

At least that's the conclusion of an article in Time magazine by Jamie Ducharme, a piece from the end of last year just sent to me by a friend for this blog.

Ducharme's story indicates that part of the reason for the overall dip in the disease, the most deadly form of cancer in the United States, is because medical advances have been occurring for decades, and because there have been major decreases in smoking.

But the "why" of the shift from "what was historically a men's disease" apparently is not apparent. 
Alice Berger, PhD.

"It's completely unknown right now," Time quotes Alice Berger, a Ph.D. who researches genetics and cancer at Seattle's Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

And Dr. Ahmedin Jemal, co-author of a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, is also quoted as saying "smoking habits cannot totally explain the demographic shifts" even though his 2018 report "showed that "rates of long-cancer incidence actually rose over the past 20 years among women born around either 1950 or 1960."

Researchers have determined, in fact, that "the type of lung cancer most common among nonsmokers disproportionately affect women, and young women are more likely to have a gene mutation often found in the tumors of nonsmokers."

The mutation, not incidentally, does respond well to newer targeted therapies, Berger notes in the piece. 

She also repeats a theory that "quirks of female sex hormones or women's immune systems could be responsible" for the disproportion.

A lot more information on scientific research can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Friday, April 17, 2020

2 experimental drugs might extend patients' lives

Renewed hope is possible for women with aggressive breast cancer, new study indicates

Two experimental drugs might help women with an aggressive form of breast cancer, results of a new study show.

According to a recent Associated Press story by Marilynn Marchione that cites reports in the New England Journal of Medicine and at a San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium that the cancers "had spread widely and and resisted many previous treatments," one drug "showed particular ability to reach tumors in the brain, which are notoriously tough to treat."

The other combines "a sort of homing device for cancer cells with a payload of chemotherapy that's released when it reaches its target."

Dr. Ian Krop in his office.
Marchione's article quotes the study's leader, Dr. Ian Krop of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, to the effect that infusions of T-DXd, the second drug, become "a guided missile…able to bring the chemotherapy directly to the cancer cell."

That study — focusing on often-fatal HER2-positive cancers, which have a protein on their cell surfaces driven by an overactive gene that promotes tumor growth — tested TDXd on 253 women

Most of the them, who had, on average, tried six other treatments before the experimental drug, saw their tumors shrink — and 6 percent of them found zero signs of cancer in at least two followup scans.

The positive response rate, the AP story again quotes Krop, "is three to four times better than what's usually seen in this situation." 

To see results showing a median time of 16 months until cancer worsened "is exciting," he added.

All involved, however, noted that side effects — including lung inflammation, low blood counts, nausea, anemia or fatigue — were substantial.

But anti-inflammatory meds can alleviate some of those issues, it's believed.

The study was sponsored by the drug's developers, Daiichi Sankyo Inc. and AstraZeneca, who are seeking approval in the United States, Europe and Japan.

Study of the other drug — tucatinib, from Seattle Genetics — was done on 612 patients. Its side effects included diarrhea, fatigue, nausea and some liver issues, but 45 percent of those on the drug were alive two years after being given it (along with the usual treatments, Herceptin and the chemo drug Xeloda) as opposed to 27 percent who weren't.

More information on experimental drugs can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Doctors cite value of immunotherapy

Lung cancer patients are heavily benefitting from new treatments, Parade magazine reports

A lot of good news has been developing in the past several years about finding and treating lung cancer, according to Parade magazine.

A recent article by Marygrace Taylor suggests that, despite the disease growing for both never-smokers and women, "there's reason to be optimistic."

How so?

"There's been a huge jump in how long people are living with lung cancer," the piece quotes Dr. Nathan Pennell, Cleveland Clinic oncologist, as saying. "It's an extraordinary change."
Dr. Nathan Pennell

The Parade story then goes on to cite the value of such treatments as immunotherapy, which "helps the immune system better recognize and remove cancer cells without necessarily impacting normal cells," according to Dr. Jacob Sands, an American Lung Association spokesman. 

More than 1,000 clinical trials are currently studying how patients "can benefit from checkpoint inhibitors, immunotherapy drugs that block proteins that cancer cells use to stave off attacks from the immune system," Taylor writes.

Pennell adds that "we now know that if you add a checkpoint inhibitor to chemo, people live substantially longer" — and most likely with fewer side effects.

Dr. Jacob Sands
Sands also points to the efficacy of an advanced screening tool like low-dose CT scans, which "catch cancers at earlier stages when they're more likely to be cured."

Another new weapon in the war against lung cancer is stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR), a specialized form of highly targeted radiation "often used to treat patients with early-stage lung cancer when surgery isn't an option."

One recent trial, the article reports, found the treatment "could double survival time without progression of [the] disease."

Finally, advanced bronchoscopy, which uses a lighted tube to examine abnormal parts of the lung just as traditional bronchoscopy does but also utilizes "smaller, more powerful tools" to create 3D maps of patients' lungs and helps doctors access areas that the traditional method can't reach.

More information about innovations in cancer treatments can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at caregivers.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Look for 'Grampy and His Fairzona Playmates'

Coronavirus delays the publication of new children's book by Woody Weingarten and his granddaughter

OK, I admit that the coronavirus has greatly disrupted my life.

And my octogenarian wife's.

It's forced us into a real retirement: There are no plays or concerts or museum openings for me to review; there's no weekly support group for me to run (where I normally help men whose partners have or had breast cancer or some other life-threatening disease); there are no performances in senior facilities where my wife, Nancy Fox, can skillfully do her "Piano and Patter" shows.

Yes, the bug is keeping us isolated at home, visitor-less, turning almost everything we do into a virtual reality. But, wonder of wonders, it's also allowing us to clean closets and drawers that have been accumulating crapola (and dust) for decades.

The spread of the virus, however, is also delaying publication of "Grampy and His Fairyzona Playmates."

That's my new VitalityPress book, a children's fairytale co-written with my granddaughter, Hannah Schifrin, and illustrated by a talented artist, Joe Marciniak.

When it'll come out is now a huge question-mark. Watch this space, as publicists are wont to say: I'll let you know when it all becomes tangible.

In the meantime, of course, you can purchase my first book, "Rollercoaster: How to survive your partner's breast cancer," through Amazon or through your local bookstore (if it's still open).