Articles Posted in Health & Wellness

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Paraquat and Parkinson's DiseaseIt sounds like an exotic fruit, or perhaps a cute little pet name, but touching or eating paraquat dichloride (paraquat) can result in nasty consequences. This toxic substance has a significant history, but more recently, has been linked to Parkinson’s disease. As a result, the herbicide has been subject to litigation. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at paraquat and the emerging lawsuits.

What Is Paraquat?

Historically, paraquat has had two main uses. First, and sadly, it’s been an effective way of committing suicide. Ingesting just one sip could result in death. In fact, when South Korea banned the herbicide in 2011, its overall suicide rate fell 10% and its suicide rate by herbicide or fungicide dropped by more than 46%.

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Retired Army Ranger Chet Sechrest and I continue our conversation on the potential for hearing damage in the military, the crucial need for proper hearing protection, and 3M Earplugs:

image-300x200Clay: So Chet as a medic you would supervise and train soldiers in the proper use of hearing protection? But you also said the Army beat into your heads the importance of protecting your hearing in whatever you were doing in the field?

Chet: Absolutely. In fact, for a long time, they had the annual hearing exam requirement. And it was like a pre-deployment requirement, you couldn’t deploy unless you had your hearing exam for that year. So the command was interested in tracking, hearing issues, to make sure that you know, not everybody’s going to go deaf. Does that make sense?

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3M Earplugs and Hearing LossYou likely know there is massive litigation emerging around 3M Company’s Combat Arms, dual-sided earplugs. These 3M Earplugs were sold to the U.S. government and distributed to members of the military in a huge contract over a period of 12 or 13 years. And many lawsuits have been filed recently that allege that these 3M Earplugs were defective, and they left thousands and thousands of soldiers with permanent hearing loss or tinnitus. It’s called noise-induced hearing damage. So my friend Chet Sechrest will talk about the unique ways that soldiers are exposed to loud noises. And it’s not always what you think; it’s not simply shooting a rifle or getting trained and the use of weapons or rifles, but also it could be serving as a mechanic for heavy engines, or being exposed to loud tanks or other industrial equipment. And as Chet points out, it could also simply be taking rides on very loud helicopters over and over again without the proper hearing protection. But that’s enough of an introduction. Let’s get to my Q&A with Chet Sechrest.

Clay: Chet was an Army Ranger and a member of Special Forces. He pulled three tours of duty in Iraq. So Chet, how long did you serve in the military?

Chet: I served a total of 27 years and nine months in the military.

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Firefighter using AFFF foamFirefighters have a host of tools available to them to fight fires. Some of these are simple, like high-pressure water. Others are more state-of-the-art, like forward-looking infrared handheld cameras and aerial drones. One of the special tools in a firefighter’s arsenal is aqueous film-forming foam, or AFFF. This “fire foam” has served as a highly effective fire suppressant for about half a century. Unfortunately, exposure to this substance has been linked to serious health problems, including cancer.

Let’s take a closer look at AFFF, its relationship to cancer and what it means for those who might have been exposed.

What Is AFFF?

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Let’s dive back in to my hip replacement surgery conversation with Physical Therapist Amy Dougherty, who discusses what sports to avoid after hip surgery and what it feels like when a person suffer an artificial hip failure:

Safe and Unsafe Activities and Sports

Clay: What are some sports that you would discourage [after hip replacement surgery]? I know there is a huge range of results and people who are dealing with certain physical issues. But are there any sports you’ve seen as a physical therapist that you say “Do not do this after hip replacement surgery?”

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Physical therapist helps patient recover from artificial hip surgery
My friend Amy Dougherty is a physical therapist in North Carolina and operates Outer Banks Physical Therapy. She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (where I also attended college and law school). She is an outstanding physical therapist and is beloved by her patients on the Outer Banks. Amy answers many of your questions about hip replacement surgery, metal-on-metal artificial hips, and the problems that have arisen from these hip products.

Clay: I want to focus on hip replacement surgery and I know you work with patients who are dealing with that kind of surgery every week. So let me start by asking what are a few reasons a person might need a hip replacement surgery?

Amy: You know, the most common reason is arthritic changes in the hip. So basically arthritis, that is the most common reason. Other reasons can include things like trauma. Some people have congenital mal-alignments where, it is basically called dysplasia where through the process of their development in utero and then following their bony surfaces of the femur, that is the long thigh bone and the acetabulum which is in the pelvis. They do not form correctly, so they might have ill-formed femoral heads. They might have ill-formed or ill-shaped acetabulum. So, the ball and the socket are not really designed well to weight bear. So, a lot of folks that, especially in a young population, that have early onset hip replacements. It is more likely the result of some type of congenital dysplasia. It could be a trauma. So, but arthritic changes is the number one reason and I have total hip replacement patients in my clinic every day. Very popular surgery, yes.

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Zantac and generic ranitidine
Generic drugs are a big deal in the United States. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 90% of prescription medications are filled with a generic drug. One of the reasons so many people take generic medications is the cost savings. From 2007 to 2016, generic medications saved $1.67 trillion. A generic version of Zantac has been sold since 1997.

But how is a generic drug different from a brand-name drug? Does this difference matter in the Zantac litigation? If so, where does innovator liability come in? I’ll address these questions in the following blog post. But first, a brief update into the Zantac litigation.

Current Status of Zantac Litigation

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Elmiron and Vision Loss
Elmiron (pentosan polysulfate sodium) is a prescription medication that was approved in 1996 for the treatment of interstitial cystitis. This condition is sometimes referred to as painful bladder syndrome and can consist of a range of symptoms. These can vary from the occasional mild discomfort to constant and significant pain in the bladder or lower abdomen of the body.

Currently, Elmiron is the only FDA-approved oral medication to treat interstitial cystitis. As a result, numerous individuals have taken the medication for an extended period. But over the past few years, several studies have been published that indicate that some people may suffer from vision problems from taking Elmiron. Some of the more notable studies came out in 2018 and 2019.

This blog post will examine the possibility of Elmiron causing vision loss in patients, its current status with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and what its makers, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (Janssen) and Johnson & Johnson, potentially face in litigation.

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Zantac and cancer
Earlier this year I wrote a blog post that discussed the recent revelation that Zantac might cause cancer. Scientists found a link between N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), a likely cancer-causing substance, and ranitidine, the key ingredient in Zantac.

A few things have changed since that blog post, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asking all manufacturers to immediately recall drugs containing ranitidine from the market.

Why Did the FDA Ask for a Recall?

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ecigteen01-256x300These days the e-cigarette headlines mostly involve people who have suffered serious and even mysterious illnesses as a result of vaping devices. And maybe that is as it should be. But for me, one of the more devastating aspects of this e-cigarette nightmare is that today millions of school-age children have become addicted to nicotine, an addiction most of them would have never suffered if e-cigarettes were not marketed to children.

Childhood Nicotine Addiction is No Accident

JUUL Labs, Inc. targeted children in its marketing campaigns. The company spent millions promoting kid-friendly fruit-flavored vape pods. JUUL paid for and developed social media campaigns on Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and other platforms. Although the main JUUL Instagram account is now inactive, many other JUUL or vape-related sites feature young people exhaling clouds of the white vapor while sitting on a beach, on the bleachers of a school football field, or driving around town. Congress developed evidence last year that JUUL created an “influencer program” with more than 25,000 social media personalities paid to market the JUUL device to teens. And it worked. As the graph at right shows, seven in ten teens were exposed in some form to e-cigarette advertising.

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