Friday, May 28, 2021

U.S. judge rejects $2 billion Monsanto offer to quash future suits by Roundup cancer victims

A federal jurist in San Francisco has rejected Monsanto's proposed $2 billion Roundup settlement.

According to a story by Bob Egelko in the San Francisco Chronicle two days ago,  U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria indicates the plan by the giant agribusiness, intended "to fend off suits by cancer victims" who sprayed the company's herbicide on their crops, offered little to users who might be diagnosed with cancer in the future.

Chhabria labeled the proposal "clearly unreasonable."

"More than 100,000 people nationwide who suffer from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and other cancers," the story notes, "have already sued Monsanto and its parent company, Bayer AG." 

Bayer has offered nearly $10 billion to settle those pending lawsuits, resolving almost 70 percent of them. But yesterday's ruling was about an additional $2 billion for those who have yet to go to court.

Three San Francisco juries, including one in which Chhabria presided, have awarded tens of millions of damages to cancer victims of the world's most widely used weed-killer. Those verdicts were undoubtedly based in part on a 2015 statement by the International Association for Research on Cancer, a World Health Organization arm, that glyphosate is a probable cause of cancer in human beings.

Bill Freese, science director of the nonprofit Center for Food Safety, was quoted in the Chronicle article as saying that the settlement would have left many users "high and dry in order to limit Bayer/Monsanto's liability for their carcinogenic herbicide."

The rejected proposal included the limitations that victims already diagnosed with cancer would accept payments no more than $200,000 each and that they could seek compensation for personal harm but not punitive damages, despite the latter being the largest part of previous jury verdicts.

Those not yet diagnosed would have been able to seek four years of company-funded medical monitoring and receive payments from the $2 billion fund if they subsequently got cancer; Chhabria, however, maintained that the proposed compensation fund might run out of money by the time they were diagnosed.

After the ruling, Bayer said it would reevaluate "the future of glyphosate-based products in the U.S. residential market," according to the Chronicle piece.

Monsanto and Bayer have long contended that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found Roundup safe and said it could be sold without warning labels.

Details on other litigation over disease-producing agents 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, May 25, 2021

CEO gives tips on juggling caregiving and work

Companies can help workers who are caregivers do their dual jobs better, writes AARP's chief exec

The headline read, "Companies need to care for their caregivers."

And the subhead stated unequivocally that "supporting your workers is good for business." 

Those words summed up a vintage column in the AARP Bulletin written by the organization's chief executive officer, Jo Ann Jenkins. In it, she noted that for the 60% of family caregivers who also held full- or part-time jobs, "just getting through an average day calls for complex choreography, especially when schedules and needs don't align properly."

As a result, she pointed out, an "urgent medical situation or a transportation glitch can set off a frantic scramble to fill the gaps."

The CEO's article isn't new, nor are the thoughts in it, but they're definitely worth repeating.

Jo Ann Jenkins
She asserted, for instance, that AARP research had found many employers knew caregiving benefits were "increasingly in demand by job applicants" and therefore had become "an important tool for recruiting and retaining top-notch workers."

Jenkins cited specific employers that had instituted "impressive caregiver policies," including CBS, Allianz Life, Emory University, Deloitte and Fannie Mae.

CBS, for example, offered employees "up to 15 days a year of emergency backup care services to fill in when normal care arrangements break down." And Allianz provided "quarterly educational workshops for employees who are caregivers."

Emory, meanwhile, used "a 24/7 call center to provide answers to caregiving questions," and Deloitte gave "workers up to 16 weeks of paid time off annually for caregiving."

Furthermore, Jenkins wrote, Fannie Mae employed "an onsite geriatric care consultant whose services are free to employees, with no limits on usage."

Closer to home, she reported that her organization had offered employees "two paid weeks of caregiving leave each year, in addition to the ability to use their sick leave for caregiving" — plus "flexible work arrangements…and backup care assistance for emergencies."

The AARP exec intimated that caregivers often try to perform their dual jobs "without alerting bosses, for fear of appearing less than fully committed to their jobs."

At least a quarter of all family caregivers are millennials, she mentioned, and at least "50 percent are under the age of 50." 

Clearly they need help.

"Trying to juggle work and caregiving takes a toll," Jenkins wound up. "Let's do our best to make it easier for all of them."

More information about the difficulties of and, moreover, the joys and rewards of caregiving 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.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Can you beat the odds of contracting disease?

Cancer prevention can be bettered by narrowing screenings, doing a Mediterranean diet, tracking genes

Smarter prevention is helping more Americans beat the odds of getting cancer.

That's the gist of a story by Marygrace Taylor in a Parade magazine some time ago — a story that's subdivided into categories that detail smarter screening, knowing your genes, eating Mediterranean, favorably using social media and eliminating from your lifestyle such an impediment to good health as tobacco.

Under the headline "The People vs. Cancer," the article notes that the overall cancer death rate is continuing to drop.

Referring to lung cancer, the piece contends there's growing evidence that "across-the-board testing might not be beneficial." Instead, it suggests, screening for those most at risk might be best.

Parade then quotes Dr. Peter Mazzone, Cleveland Clinic pulmonologist, to the effect that "the goal is to find ways — other than age and smoking history, to identify high-risk patients."

Mazzone had co-authored lung cancer screening guidelines with the American College of Chest Physicians for low-dose chest CT scans.

By specifically utilizing tests such as breath or blood tests that look for certain biomarkers, experts can minimize the harm done to patients (such as unnecessary biopsies), Taylor writes.

Genetic testing, on the other hand, can be enhanced by those who track their family's health history.

The story cites Dr. Charis Eng, director of the Center for Personalized Genetic Healthcare and chair of the Cleveland Clinic's Genomic Medicine Institute, who maintains that tracing a family tree should include determining who had what:

"The most important things are what's the diagnosis, age when diagnosed, family history and familial clustering of a disease."

It's also important to know, she told Parade, how a given disease presented itself. Such as "if a family member has been diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer, we think there might be BRCA1 or BRCA2 [mutated gene] in the family."

Eating well, Taylor also indicates, can be a big preventive.

That may mean loading up "on whole grains, fruits and vegetables, nut and beans, olive oil and lean protein like fish." The writer, alluding to a Current Nutrition Reports review, notes that "a Mediterranean-style eating plan has been shown to protect against several types of cancer, including colon, prostate, stomach, esophageal, liver and endometrial cancers."

That diet in postmenopausal women, she adds, also was shown in a Dutch study to "slash the risk for certain breast cancers by up to 40 percent."

The story also quotes Jennifer McDaniel, a registered dietitian and co-author of Prevention Mediterranean Table, as saying that the cancer-fighting effect might also be due to what's not on the diet — foods like processed grains, white bread and rice, red meat and full-fat dairy products.

Why? McDaniel says that eating that way may support a healthy body weight and lower inflammation levels, which in turn help prevent some cancers.

Want to learn about other possible ways to avoid disease? Check out "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.