Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Top U.S. court rejects Roundup maker's appeal of decision that the weed killer causes cancer

The U.S. Supreme Court has let a $25 million verdict against Bayer, parent company of Monsanto, manufacturer of the popular weed killer Roundup, stand. 

The original jury found that Monsanto, the giant agribusiness that manufactures the pesticide, had failed to warn about cancer risks to those using the product.

The top court's decision not to intervene means not only that the decision in the suit brought by Edwin Hardeman, who was diagnosed in 2015 with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, can remain intact but the way is cleared for thousands of similar lawsuits against Bayer. 

A story by Ann E. Marimow in an edition of The Washington Post this week notes that the "Biden administration had urged the court to deny the company's [stance], a departure from the Trump administration's position."

Hardeman's suit alleged that his use of Roundup for more than two decades caused his cancer and that Monsanto, which Bayer purchased in 2018, failed to warn about the risks associated with the active ingredient, glyphosate.

After an international research group in 2015 classified glyphosate as "probably carcinogenic to humans," the state of California demanded a warning label on Roundup, the nation's most widely used weed killer — in opposition to the Environmental Protection Agency's repeatedly concluding that "glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer in humans."

Two years ago, according to the story, "Bayer agreed to pay more than $10 billion to settle tens of thousands of potential U.S. claims" but it admitted no wrongdoing. It also said it was moving toward alternate ingredients to "manage litigation risk in the U.S. and not because of safety concerns."

Judge Michelle Friedland
Just days before the Supreme Court ruling about the Hardeman suit, "a separate ruling from the 9th Circuit ordered the EPA to reconsider its finding in 2020 that glyphosate did not pose 'any unreasonable risk to man or the environment,'" Marimow's article reports. As a part of the unanimous decision, Judge Michelle Friedland writes that the Trump-era opinion "was not supported by substantial evidence" and didn't meet the agency's "legal obligations for reviewing environmental impact."

More information on court battles over carcinogenics 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.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Small study shows that experimental drug makes rectal cancers vanish in 100 percent of the cases

A small rectal cancer clinical trial has had an unexpected result — remission in every patient.

According to a story by Gina Kolata in recent editions of The New York Times, the cancer vanished in each of the 18 patients, "undetectable by physical exam, endoscopy, PET scans or MRI scans." 

Dr. Luis A. Diaz Jr.
Dr. Luis A. Diaz Jr. of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, who published a paper on the trial in the New England Journal of Medicine, is quoted as saying he knew of no other study in which a treatment completely obliterated a cancer in every patient. "I believe this is the first time this has happened in the history of cancer" he says.

That view is confirmed by Dr. Alan P. Venice, a colorectal cancer specialist at the University of California, San Francisco, was wasn't involved in the study. That kind of record, he says, is "unheard of."

The patients entered the study with the expectation that they might face chemotherapy, radiation and, most likely surgery that cold result in bowel, urinary and sexual dysfunction — and require colostomy bags. All 18 were pleasantly surprised to find that no such treatments were necessary.

Dr. Andrea Cercek
"There were lots of happy tears," Dr. Andrea Cercek, an oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering and a co-author of the paper, is quoted.

The immunotherapy drug the patients were given every three weeks for six months — dostarlimab, a checkpoint inhibitor produced by GlaxoSmithKline, which sponsored the clinical trial — costs about $11,000 per dose. "It unmasks cancer cells, allowing the immune system to identify and destroy them," the story says.

The study's authors indicate that although the earliest patient to complete the trial is more than two years post-treatment, many have only been involved for six months, and all patients will be monitored for at least five years.

Dr. Julie Gralow
A follow-up story by Kim Bellware and Lenny Bernstein in The Washington Post notes that the study's results marked "the first time immunotherapy alone eliminated the need for chemotherapy, radiation or surgery."

The Post story quotes Dr. Julie Gralow, chief medical officer and executive vice president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, as commenting that "I'm excited when you see such a dramatic response. It gives me hope we can find such a dramatic [treatment] for other cancers, too." 

More information about clinical trials 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, June 6, 2022

U.S. government cracking down on false Medicare claims by major health-care outfits

The Justice Department is continuing to investigate false Medicare claims that have apparently padded the pockets of major health-care organizations.

According to a story by Christopher Rowland in yesterday's editions of The Washington Post, the U.S. government maintains those organizations have likely been mining "patient records for outdated, irrelevant conditions to increase profits."

A major culprit, Sutter Health systems, which runs 24 hospitals in Northern California, settled a civil whistleblower lawsuit last year for $90 million that alleged it had submitted false risk codes to get higher Medicare Advantage payment. It did not, however, admit any wrongdoing or liability.

Sutter's aim, the Post story contends, "translated into millions of dollars in inflated bills to the federal Medicare Advantage insurance program." 

Dr. David Terry
Rowland's article quotes Dr. David Terry, a recently retired psychiatrist who worked with in large health organizations in Kansas that aren't part of the lawsuits, as saying that what's been done is "not ethical coding, it's how to code for more money. That pressure is there." 

A whistleblower, Kathy Ormsby, had testified that her work auditing medical case files uncovered the alleged scheme to defraud the government. Sutter supposedly paid her to scour health histories of thousands of elderly Medicare patients and then pressured physicians "to add false diagnoses it found [including cancer and stroke] to their current medical records."

According to Rowland's article, the action, aimed at making patients appear sicker than they were, was often done "without the knowledge of the patients themselves."

Ormsby, the piece continued, "discovered 90 percent of diagnoses for cancer were invalid, as were 96 percent for stroke and 66 percent for fractures."

The government suit against Sutter was filed in U.S. District Court in California as part of a broader government crackdown on abusive billing practices. Sutter is the parent company of Ormsby's former employer, the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, which has 1,600 doctors.

The government still has a similar case against Kaiser Permanente pending — and, the article says, "lawsuits also are playing out in federal arts against UnitedHealth Group, Cigna and Anthem. The government's Office of Inspector General has audited Human and found it overfilled the government."

Kaiser and United Healthcare have denied any improper conduct; the others haven't commented.

Rowland's story talks about byproducts of the abuse. "Patients' medical records, padded with false diagnoses, are inaccurate. That could unnecessarily stigmatize patients who were improperly deemed obese, or malnourished, or mentally ill. It introduces potential phantom influences on treatment decisions, critics say."

More information on abuses in the medical system 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."