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215 E-Cigarette Respiratory Illness Cases Reported Across 25 States

In response to growing number of e-cigarette respiratory illness reports, federal health officials issued new safety warnings about the serious risk of e-cigarette users developing severe respiratory illnesses. On August 30, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a safety communication stating there are currently at least 215 e-cigarette respiratory illness cases reported across 25 states. Additional cases of pulmonary problems are under investigation to determine whether they too are linked to e-cigarette use.

While federal investigators look into the common cause for the e-cigarette respiratory illnesses, the FDA urges that concerned individuals should consider abstaining from e-cigarette product use. In the safety communication, the FDA warns to not purchase e-cigarette products off the street, especially if the products contain cannabinoids like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Additionally, the FDA states that e-cigarette products should not be altered to take cannabinoids, nor should any substance be added to an e-cigarette product that the manufacturer did not intend.

Similarly, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), released a health advisory the same day as the FDA, asking doctors to question patients who report using an e-cigarette within the last 90 days if they experienced symptoms or signs of respiratory illness. Of the 215 e-cigarette respiratory illness cases reported, the CDC states all the patients reported using e-cigarette products. While the common e-cigarette product or substance linking the cases together is still unknown, the CDC warns e-cigarette users of the symptoms of e-cigarette respiratory illness, including difficulty breathing, chest pain, fatigue, fever, weight loss, etc.

Vaping Epidemic

These health officials’ warnings come in the midst of what experts call a vaping epidemic in the US. E-cigarette use has become increasingly popular in America in the last five years, particularly amongst young adults. The U.S. Surgeon General reported that nationwide, vaping has increased 900% among US middle and high school students between 2011 and 2015. The increased e-cigarette use has resulted in numerous studies revealing the severely dangerous risks of teens and adolescents using e-cigarette products, warning of seizures, respiratory health risks, and pneumonia amongst other adverse health risks.

A teen from Fort Worth, TX reports his use of e-cigarettes caused his lungs to fail, leading to his 18-day hospitalization. 17-year-old Tryston Zohfeld shared the details of his story with WFAA to warn the public about the dangers of e-cigarette use.

“I really wish I had the knowledge that I do now,” Zohfeld told WFAA.

Zohfeld was hospitalized for over two weeks at Cook Children’s Hospital after an X-ray revealed a blockage in the teen’s lungs. Zohfeld reported side effects including chills, heightened rate, lethargy, and vomiting.

“I woke up just throwing up everywhere, and my heart was beating out of my chest going 100 miles an hour,” Zohfeld said.

Doctors were baffled at the time, running a long series of tests to rule out possibilities for Zohfeld’s condition. Dr. Karen Schultz, a pediatrics and pulmonology specialist, said the tests did not give much insight into Zohfeld’s lung failure.

“None of them came back positive,” Dr. Schultz said about the tests doctors ran.

The reason behind the recent graduate’s illness became clear when Zohfeld’s cousin came forward and reported he and Zohfeld had been secretly vaping e-cigarettes since the 8th grade. Sometimes, the teen would vape two to three vape pods a week, with some pods reportedly equivalating the amount of nicotine in a pack of cigarettes.

Dr. Schultz believes the chemicals in the vape pods Zohfeld was inhaling caused inflammation in his lungs, inflaming them to the point they could not exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide.

“His pattern of using them brought to light that that was the likely cause,” Schultz said. “Plus all the other chemicals that we don’t know what they do to your lungs.”.

US Vaping Epidemic

Zohfeld’s testimony has triggered national conversation about the severe risks of vaping. His story has made headlines across the United States, drawing comments shares on social media platforms from e-cigarette users. Zohfeld, himself, expressed his concern about the unknown dangers of vaping, especially the long-term impact on users’ health and what complications may arise in the future from vaping.

In 2018 over 3.6 million American youth currently use e-cigarettes, with 1 in 5 high school students vaping and 11 in 20 middle school students using e-cigarettes. The dangers of vaping have become so widespread in the US that the Surgeon General released an official warning on the dangers of youth vaping, indicating the harmful chemicals in vape aerosol expose users and others to unstable organic compounds, heavy metals, and particles that can be inhaled deeply into users’ lungs.

As of August, over 50 people across the nation have been hospitalized with vaping-related breathing illnesses this year. The sudden outbreak in vaping-related breathing illnesses has instigated the FDA to issue a multi-state investigation to find a common device, pod, or chemical behind the vaping-injuries. The CDC has launched advertising campaigns to educate the public on the dangers of minors vaping e-cigarettes, cautioning teens to know the facts before vaping.

After nearly two dozen reports of vaping-related breathing problems in young adults across the Midwest, health officials launched a multi-state investigation to find a connection between the cases.

In Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, 22 teens and young adults have been hospitalized with severe respiratory illnesses after vaping marijuana or nicotine e-cigarette products. However, doctors have been unable to find the reason behind the vaping-linked breathing problems. The New York Times reports doctors believe the problems stem from inhaling specific chemical compounds in e-liquids that cause the toxic-like respiratory problems. 20 additional emergency cases in these states are being investigated for their potential tie to vaping nicotine, marijuana, or even illegal street drugs, as well.

The reported patients had difficulty breathing, chest pain, vomiting, and other ailments associated with respiratory injury. Some patients’ cases were more severe and had lung damage that required treatment in intensive care units (ICU). Each of the patients openly admitted to vaping e-cigarettes prior to their hospitalization, but officials have not been able to determine the e-cigarette ingredient or vaping system responsible for their injuries. Four teenagers in Minnesota were admitted to Children’s Minnesota Hospital over the last several weeks, complaining of having difficulty breathing and lung injury; one of the teens required treatment in the hospital’s ICU.

Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois have all launched public health warnings of the dangers of vaping e-cigarettes as official investigate the cause of the vaping-linked respiratory problems. Wisconsin health officials suspect open-tank vaping systems could be behind the respiratory illnesses. Open-tank vaping systems can be refilled with liquids purchased concocted outside of licensed retailers, leading to contaminated vaping liquids.

Vaping Health Risks and JUUL Vaping Lawsuits

Reports across the country steadily flood in about the dangers of e-cigarette and e-liquid vaping as more users are injured from e-cigarette devices and liquids. The American Association of Poison Control Center reported that as of July 31, poison control centers across the US have handled 2,439 e-cigarette device and liquid nicotine exposure cases since 2019. Additional studies over the past few years linked e-cigarette vaping to severe health risks including seizures, respiratory illnesses, pneumonia, and fungal infections of the lungs.

A recent study from Duke and Yale identified chemicals in JUUL e-cigarettes, the most popular e-cigarettes on the market, that can potentially irritate and damage lungs when inhaled. This research comes amid an increasing number of JUUL vaping lawsuits in the US, parents and teenagers claiming JUUL targeted youth in their marketing and neglected to adequately warn users about the severe risk of respiratory problems, seizures, and addiction from vaping JUUL e-cigarettes. The FDA is currently investigating the relationship between e-cigarette use and risk of seizure after finding 127 reports of vaping-related seizures since 2010.

In the aftermath of an initial $25 million talcum powder asbestos compensatory verdict for a woman with mesothelioma, a New York jury is hitting Johnson & Johnson with another $300 million in punitive damages to punish the personal care behemoth for actively concealing the dangerous nature of its talcum powder products, including the company’s iconic Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower product lines.

Donna Olson’s case was the first of four talcum powder asbestos claims slated to go before juries this year.

The staggering combined verdict of $325 million is the first time since the 1980s that the “asbestos court” in New York has levied punitive damages. In general, punitive damages are rare and only used in instances of particularly horrific conduct.

The first phase of Olson’s trial established the basis for compensatory damages by proving she developed mesothelioma from J&J’s talcum powder products. She breathed in asbestos in the talc particles from the time she was approximately eight years old until the mid-1980s. The second phase of her trial demonstrated that J&J knew that its talc was contaminated and not only refused to take corrective action but actively concealed the significant dangers of its products.

Mesothelioma is a rare strain of cancer that appears to be isolated to asbestos exposure. Generally, the disease has an exceptionally long latency period before diagnosis and is often very advanced by this time. Consequently, treatment options are few and far between.

Despite the verdicts piling up in recent years for women with mesothelioma and ovarian cancer from using J&J’s talcum powder products, the company continues to refuse to negotiate talcum powder settlements to resolve the litigation.

Talcum Powder Asbestos and Cancer Lawsuits

Currently, J&J is facing nearly 12,000 Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower lawsuits nationwide. These lawsuits allege that the company knew about its products’ cancer risks for decades but actively concealed the dangers to product its brand image and profits.

In addition to a growing number of mesothelioma claims, many of the lawsuits allege that J&J specifically marketed its talcum powder products for feminine hygiene to increase use and market share despite knowing that its products can cause ovarian cancer.

District Judge Fred L. Wolfson is currently presiding over the federal talcum powder multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the District of New Jersey.

New court documents in the ongoing Roundup non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma litigation indicate Bayer subsidiary Monsanto paid chemical lobbyists to claim the popular herbicide weed killer was safe despite significant scientific evidence that Roundup causes cancer.

Email correspondence between Monsanto officials and the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) reflect how the industry group campaigned for contributions from Monsanto. Despite Monsanto’s misgivings about the group’s reputation, company officials used these contributions to influence the ACSH to refute the growing body of evidence from the scientific community that Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, likely causes cancer.

In one February 2015 email between Monsanto higher-ups, one voices concerns over ACSH’s reputation but still resolves to make contributions to ensure support from the group.

“(T)hey have PLENTY of warts – but: You WILL NOT GET A BETTER VALUE FOR YOUR DOLLAR than ACSH,” the email states. “They are working with us to respond if needed to IARC.”

The email clearly shows signs of Monsanto coordinating to influence the scientific community to reject pending findings from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). One month later in March 2015, the IARC announced that glyphosate was a probable human carcinogen.

Another email details the chemical lobbyists’ complaints to Monsanto for not receiving payment for the group’s efforts to discredit the WHO’s findings. In response, Monsanto officials indicated that they would continue giving ACSH money.

Chemical Lobbyists Contributions Background

These emails are coming to light in the face of around 15,000 Roundup product liability lawsuits pending throughout the nation. The lawsuits allege that Roundup exposure significantly increases cancer risks, especially non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Bayer and its Monsanto unit have suffered a series of high-profile trial losses in the first three cases to go before juries in the litigation. Consequently, shareholders and the court overseeing the federal litigation are pressuring the companies to reach a settlement agreement to expedite the litigation's resolution and avoid staggering liability in thousands of individual trials.

Roundup Cancer Trials

The first Roundup cancer trial was at the state level in California this past summer. The jury returned with a $289 million verdict. However, the court later reduced this judgement to $78 million after post-trial motions.

The second trial was in federal court earlier this year. Despite the bifurcated format heavily favoring Monsanto due to its separation of causation from misrepresentation, the trial ended in an $80 million verdict.

Finally, the third trial took place in California state court and ended with a landmark $2 billion judgement for a husband and wife who developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after using Roundup.

Earlier this week, Seeking Alpha published an analysis of the Roundup litigation. The analyst concluded that Bayer is “fighting for its life” due to the Roundup troubles it acquired along with its Monsanto acquisition. Bayer may have to shell out as much as $20 billion in Roundup fines and settlements. Also, there is no telling how far the company’s stocks may plummet in the coming months if the litigation remains unresolved.

Judge Vince Chhabria is presiding over the entirety of the federal Roundup litigation in the Northern District of California. If Bayer fails to resolve the litigation, the next multidistrict litigation (MDL) bellwether trial will begin in February 2020 over a woman who developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after extensive exposure to Roundup from using it in her herb garden for years.

Monsanto is now facing a Roundup class action lawsuit that is calling for resolution on the prevailing question about the connection between the weed killer’s active ingredient, glyphosate, and cancer. The claim asserts that this resolution is critical to saving hundreds of thousands of hours of court time and resources investigating claims from individuals who developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma following Roundup exposure.

Robert Ramirez filed the Roundup class action complaint this past month in the Northern District of California. Ramirez developed Double Expressor Large B-Cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2018. He alleges that exposure to a concentrated mix of Roundup at work from 1999 to 2013 caused his cancer.

Ramirez’s cancer is in remission. However, he will require a colostomy bag and regular cancer screenings for the rest of his life.

Ramirez is seeking class action status. But his allegations are inherently similar to those in more than 13,500 Roundup lawsuits. Across the country, farmers, landscapers and consumers are alleging that Monsanto deliberately failed to warn about Roundup’s risks of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other cancers.

Monsanto continues to claim that independent researchers like the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) are wrong in their findings that glyphosate is probably carcinogenic to humans. The agrochemical behemoth points to regulators in the U.S. and Europe who have found the herbicide to be safe. However, internal Monsanto memos show that the company exerted a great deal of influence on these findings and even wrote key portions of the regulator reviews itself.

So far, the first two Roundup trials ended in sizable victories for the plaintiffs with juries ruling that Roundup caused the plaintiffs’ cancers and that Monsanto actively withheld safety information.

This past August, the first California state trial ended in a $78 million verdict for a former school groundskeeper. This past month, a federal jury returned with an $80 million verdict for the plaintiff.

Roundup Class Action Request for Resolution

Ramirez is calling for the federal court to make a final determination on whether Roundup causes cancer which would resolve a significant portion of thousands of claims.

“In seeking resolution of the general causation component contained in almost every state’s product liability laws, the only remaining issue that all class members and the Plaintiff will need to show is that they have NHL due to exposure to Roundup and the amount of damages due to that plaintiff,” Ramirez's claim states. “Under the Plaintiff’s plan, the only issue that those with NHL and proof of exposure to Roundup will have to prove is the specific link and the specific damages suffered by the class member. If allowed to proceed in this fashion, the Plaintiff will have provided significant and meaningful benefit to the class members in one proceeding.”

In April, the District Judge presiding over the entirely of the federal litigation canceled an upcoming bellwether trial set for June, ordering parties to enter into settlement discussions to resolve the litigation.

If Monsanto and Bayer fail to reach any Roundup settlements, the companies could face staggering liabilities in courts nationwide.

Experts are projecting that valsartan cancer lawsuits will eventually number in the thousands over the widespread contamination of the popular blood pressure medication.

Currently, there are only a few dozen valsartan cancer lawsuits pending in the federal court system. However, as more individuals learn that impurities in certain generic valsartan pills could have caused them to develop cancer, lawyers in the litigation project that thousands of lawsuits will eventually flood the nation's courts.

All the current federal lawsuits have similar allegations that the generic manufacturing process produced cancer-causing impurities that contaminated several different companies’ generic valsartan medication. These impurities include N-nitrodimethylamine (NDMA) and N-Nitrodiethylamine (NDEA). These increase risks for colon, liver, kidney, stomach, and other digestive tract cancers.

Valsartan Cancer Lawsuits MDL

Due to the striking similarities in the federal lawsuits, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) consolidated the pretrial proceedings to avoid duplicative discovery and conflicting pretrial rulings that can further hold up large, complex litigation. Consequently, District Judge Robert B. Kugler is now presiding over the entirety of the litigation in the District of New Jersey.

At a recent status conference, the plaintiffs’ attorneys indicated they expect more than 2,000 cases to enter the MDL over the next two years.

Consequently, Judge Kugler is allowing the direct filing of valsartan lawsuits into the MDL to expedite new case filings and void delays from transferring claims from nationwide District Courts.

As part of these pretrial proceedings, Judge Kugler will most likely establish a bellwether program. During this process, the court will select a representative group of cases for early trial dates. These early test trials help parties evaluate the relative strength and weaknesses of their respective cases, as well as gauge how juries are likely to respond to evidence that appears throughout the litigation. While these early trials are not binding on the remaining cases in the MDL, they could facilitate valsartan settlement agreements from the manufacturers to resolve the litigation.

A new study indicates that Roundup exposure may cause generational toxic damage, meaning that individuals may pass on health problems from the weed killer to their children.

Scientific Reports published the study this week. Washington State University (WSU) researchers say they found “dramatic increases in pathologies” in the grandchildren and great grandchildren of female rats they exposed to glyphosate. Glyphosate is Roundup’s active ingredient.

In March 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen. The organization’s International Agency of Research on Cancer (IARC) warned that the chemical increases the risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other cancers. Following the WHO’s classification, numerous independent studies have continued raising concerns abut glyphosate exposure’s cancer risks. However, the study’s researchers noted that there is only marginal if any research on Roundup exposure generational risks.

In the WSU study, researchers investigated the transgenerational effects of daily exposure to Roundup on pregnant rats. They found that the side effects were negligible among the female rats themselves and immediate offspring. But when they looked at the grandchildren and great grandchildren, there were significant differences between them and those whose grandmothers and great grandmothers had not been exposure to glyphosate.

“In contrast, dramatic increases in pathologies in the F2 generation grand-offspring and F3 transgenerational great-grand-offspring were observed,” the researchers wrote. “The transgenerational pathologies observed include prostate disease, obesity, kidney disease, ovarian disease, and parturition (birth) abnormalities.”

Researchers identified numerous genetic regions involved in the pathologies, suggesting that glyphosate exposure can cause transgenerational inheritance of sperm mutations and disease.

“Observations suggest generational toxicology needs to be incorporated into the risk assessment of glyphosate and all other potential toxicants,” the researchers noted. “The ability of glyphosate and other environmental toxicants to impact our future generations needs to be considered, and is potentially as important as the direct exposure toxicology done today for risk assessment.”

Roundup Exposure Litigation

These new findings could impact the ongoing Roundup litigation over allegations that exposure to Roundup caused landscapers, famers and groundskeepers, as well as casual users to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

This past summer, the first state court case went to trial in California. The trial resulted in a $289 million verdict for a former school groundskeeper who is dying from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The award included $250 million in punitive damages to punish the manufacturer for concealing the weed killer’s dangerous side effects. The court ultimately reduced the punitive damages. However, the judge determined Monsanto should still pay $78 million in damages.

In March, the first federal Roundup case went to trial, ending in an $80 million verdict. The jury determined that the weed killer was a significant factor in the plaintiff developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Throughout the rest of 2019, several other claims are scheduled to go to trial throughout the county, including a lawsuit with more than 15 plaintiffs. If Monsanto refuses to reach Roundup settlements to resolve the litigation, they could face staggering liabilities in thousands of individual trials

A new valsartan contamination lawsuit alleges that the recalled blood pressure medication caused a woman to develop liver cancer from the carcinogenic impurities.

Karen Brackman filed the complaint April 10 in the District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. She names Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceutical, Solco Healthcare and Prinston Pharmaceutical as defendants.

According to her lawsuit, Brackman received her liver cancer diagnosis in April 2018. Liver cancer is one of numerous malignancies that the valsartan contamination can cause. Namely, the chemicals N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) and N-Nitrosodiethylamine (NDEA) in the pills are to blame.

Brackman indicates that the drug manufacturers were aware of the valsartan contamination and concealed it. She alleges that she would not have exposed herself to these sorts of risks if she knew of them.

“Plaintiff would not have consented to taking valsartan, had Plaintiff known of or been fully and adequately informed by Defendants of the true increased risks and serious dangers of taking the drug, which was rendered unreasonably dangerous by the presence of NDMA and/or NDEA,” the lawsuit states. “Plaintiff and Plaintiff’s physicians chose to take and prescribe valsartan based on the risks and benefits disclosed to them by Defendants but would have made a difference choice, had the true risks and benefits been provided.”

Brackman is seeking compensatory and punitive damages for failure to warn, negligent misrepresentation, negligence, design defect, manufacturing defect, and breach of consumer protection statutes.

Brackman joins a growing number of individuals filing valsartan contamination lawsuits after developing liver, kidney, bladder and gastric cancers, as well as other injuries after exposure to the defective drugs.

There are also multiple valsartan class action claims from individuals who have not developed cancer but are seeing reimbursement for the worthless and dangerous drugs. This also includes funding for medical monitoring they may require for the rest of their lives due to cancer-causing agent exposure.

The District Court presiding over the federal Taxotere litigation has finally set a schedule for the first Taxotere trial to begin in September 2019 to determine if the manufacturer deliberately misrepresented the cancer drug's safety and efficacy.

Currently, there are more than 12,000 lawsuits pending against Sanofi-Aventis over the company failing to warn patients, consumers and the medical community about the significant risk of permanent hair loss from Taxotere compared to other safer, less toxic and equally effective breast cancer treatments.

Cancer patients expect hair loss from chemotherapy. However, these women allege that Sanofi took advantage of them during a critically vulnerable time by providing false and misleading information that indicated hair regrows after treatment as it does with other cancer drugs. However, thinning and balding continues to remain a factor in women’s lives far after treatments are over.

Due to striking similarities in the lawsuits at the federal court level, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) centralized the litigation to expedite the judicial process by eliminating conflicting pretrial rulings and scheduling. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo is presiding over the multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Bellwether Program and First Taxotere Trial Schedule

As part of the MDL proceedings, the Court established a bellwether program. This involves the Court preparing small groups of cases for early trial dates. These “test” trials give parties in the litigation the opportunity to evaluate the relative strengths and weaknesses in their cases.

Judge Milazzo originally scheduled the bellwether trials to begin in May. However, this past month, the Court announced that delays had pushed back the start date of the first Taxotere trial to September 16. Judge Milazzo issued a Case Management Order this past week, detailing the Court’s schedule leading to that trial.

The schedule for the first Taxotere trial calls for parties to submit all supplemental briefs and motions by June 3. They also must complete a final witness list by July 3, jury questionnaire by July 12, and motions in Limine by July 16. The Court has scheduled the final pretrial order for August 23 and the final pretrial conference for August 30.

The outcomes of these bellwether trials are not binding on other claims remaining in the litigation. However, they could potentially lead to Sanofi reaching settlement agreements to resolve the litigation and circumvent the need for thousands of separate trials throughout the country.

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