Pricing Cancer Drugs Based on Performance

May 28, 2015

file000788055222.jpgManaged care and health insurance companies are trying to set cancer drugs pricing based on how well they work for patients. These so-called pay-for-performance deals with pharmaceutical companies would greatly benefit patients and families struggling with the rising cost of cancer medications.

Our team of lung cancer lawyers recently reported on the dangers of rising drug costs, particularly among cancer medications, many of which cost more than $100,000 per patient per year. Experts have been warning about the consequences of rising drug prices for the past decade and the tide is finally beginning to turn as doctors, hospitals, insurers and health managers are outright refusing to pay for or prescribe these overpriced drugs.

Traditionally, neither American doctors nor the FDA consider drug pricing when deciding whether a drug would be safe and effective in patients. Recently oncologists at Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, one of the country's most esteemed hospitals, refused to offer a cancer drug because of its outrageous price. The drug, Zaltrap, was nearly identical to another drug already on market but cost twice as much: $11,000 per month. And it is useless when used on its own. Zaltrap is a second-line treatment, meaning it must be used in addition to other chemotherapies.

This was the first doctor-initiated revolt against drug prices in recent memory. What happens next? One health manager, Express Scripts Holding, is arguing for one possibility: pricing drugs based on how well they work. Health managers say they should pay less when drugs do not work well in certain patients with certain types of tumors.

Currently, insurers and managers pay the same per-unit price for all cancer drugs regardless of what type of tumor it is being used to treat. Drugs work differently for different cancers, however. The drug Tarceva, for example, extends the life of pancreatic cancer patients by an average of just two weeks, though it extends lung cancer patients' survival by about 3.5 months.

Therefore, Express Scripts is seeking to pay less for Tarceva for pancreatic cancer patients than for lung cancer patients. Tarceva costs $6,850 per month.

The U.S. spent $42.4 billion on oncology drugs in 2014. Yet, most cancer drugs provide minor survival benefits, shrinking tumors but never eradicating them fully.

Change in the Face of Public, Physician Scrutiny

Pharmaceuticals as a whole treat symptoms rather than underlying causes; this is why our national reliance on drugs has made us sicker instead or healthier, draining our healthcare system while fattening the pockets of Big Pharma.

A director at Sloan Kettering Cancer Center proposed a similar pay-for-performance model last year. He suggested dropping the price of the drug Erbitux, which typically costs $10,320 per patient, to about $420 per patient for its least-effective use (metastatic head and neck cancer).

Insurers and managers are also seeking simple price cuts, which Big Pharma has been able to avoid due to the country's fragmented healthcare system. Other tactics include providing new drugs for free for the first few months. If the drug works, patients are then expected to pay full price; if not, the patient is free to move on to another treatment.

Many drug companies are experimenting with various alternative-pricing systems due in no small part to public dislike and distrust. Physicians know that the rise in drug prices has far exceeded drugs' effectiveness - but a stunning number of patients do not. A study recently published showed that nearly 70% of advanced lung cancer patients did not understand that the drugs used in their treatments would not cure them.

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Cuban Lung Cancer Vaccine Coming to the U.S.

May 13, 2015

syringes-and-vial-1028452-m.jpgAn agreement between the Cuban Immunology Center and a New York cancer institute was recently finalized, bringing a new lung cancer vaccine to American patients. The vaccine, Cimavax, is expected to gain approval in six to eight months, with clinical trials set to begin in 2016.

Our team of lung cancer lawyers is currently investigating lung cancer claims for patients of all types, even former smokers.

The agreement was signed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo during his visit to Cuba in April 2015. The partnership between the Roswell Park Cancer Institute and Center for Molecular Immunology in Cuba will bring the vaccine to the U.S. for the first time.

Cuba conducts some of the best and most innovative medical research in the world, particularly for vaccines and immunology. Cimavax was developed over a 25-year-period, and was made available to the Cuban public for free in 2011. One clinical trial conducted in 2008 showed that Cuban lung cancer patients who received the vaccine lived an average of 5 months longer than patients who did not receive the vaccine.

As relations between the U.S. and Cuba begin to normalize, potentially putting an end to a 55-year trade embargo, President Obama has used executive power to lift restrictions on medical and research equipment. The embargo still stands, however, and Congress will have to lift the embargo if collaborative research between the two countries can grow and evolve.

As a result of decades of diplomatic and economic sanctions, Cuba has been forced to be more innovative and creative than countries with more resources. Cuba spends a fraction of the money Americans do on healthcare, yet the average life expectancy is equal among the two nations.

Fidel and Raul Castro went to great lengths to strengthen the country's medical research and biotechnology sectors, placing much emphasis on preventative medicine. Cuba now has one of the best immunology programs in the world, making numerous vaccination breakthroughs for meningitis, hepatitis, and now, lung cancer.

The Cuban Center for Molecular Immunology is expected to give the Roswell Park Cancer Institute all relevant data - including how it's produced and past trial results - to submit to the FDA for approval. Fortunately, Cimavax seems to have very low toxicity and will be relatively inexpensive to produce and store.

How the Vaccine Works

Cimavax works by attacking a certain protein tumors produce into the bloodstream. When those proteins are attacked, the body naturally releases antibodies against a hormone called epidermal growth factor. This hormone typically incites cell growth, including the growth and spread of cancer cells. Therefore, Cimavax is a therapeutic vaccine, intended not to prevent cancer from occurring, but to target certain antibodies to keep tumors from growing. This can potentially keep even late-stage cancer in check, so the condition is chronic but manageable.

Researchers at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute are hoping to expand the use of Cimavax beyond this purpose, as drugs to keep cancer "chronic but manageable" already exist in the U.S. Roswell is planning to explore Cimavax's potential to actually prevent cancer from occurring. Cuba has been unable to explore the vaccine's preventative potential due to financial limits.

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Cancer from Asbestos-Containing Talcum Powder

file000685955324.jpgTalcum powder has recently been linked to ovarian and uterine cancer in women who used the product in the genital area over long periods of time. This has resulted in massive news coverage and multi-million dollar lawsuits against companies like Johnson & Johnson.

Lesser known, however, is the potential for talcum powder containing asbestos to cause asbestos-related disease, such as mesothelioma and lung cancer. Our team of talcum powder lawyers urges the public to make this risk known so exposure may be avoided at all costs.

A woman in California, Judith Winkel, was recently diagnosed with mesothelioma, which is a form of cancer caused exclusively by exposure to asbestos. Winkel believes her mesothelioma was caused by Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder, a brand Colgate sold in the mid-1990s. This particular brand of talc powder is known to be contaminated with asbestos.

Winkel and her husband sued Colgate-Palmolive Co. on five separate claims, including failure to warn and defective manufacturing. After just two hours of deliberation, the jury unanimously found in favor of Winkel on all counts and determined that Colgate acted with malice by knowingly endangering consumers using Cashmere Bouquet. Winkel and her husband were awarded $13 million in damages.

Spontaneous Mesothelioma in Women

A study published in 2014 in the American Thoracic Society Journal examined seven women diagnosed with mesothelioma who had no other source of asbestos exposure except for the use of Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder. The researchers intended to prove that Cashmere Bouquet was the causative factor in their mesothelioma development.

Researchers began by testing 50 containers of Cashmere Bouquet talc powder from a variety of sources for the presence of asbestos. They found varying amounts of asbestos in the talcum powder. One of the patients died during the course of the study; after death, her lungs and lymph nodes were tested for the presence of asbestos. Medical experts found substantial amounts of asbestos with similar core fibers of those found in the Cashmere Bouquet powder.

Researchers concluded that the patient's mesotheliomas were caused by a combination of asbestos and talc.

Mesothelioma is most common among industrial workers who have been directly exposed to airborne asbestos, such as construction workers and pipefitters. Many people diagnosed with mesothelioma never worked in high-risk occupations, however. "Idiopathic" or "spontaneous" mesothelioma is the term for mesothelioma that occurs in the absence of any asbestos exposure.

Between 70-80% of women with mesothelioma are regarded as idiopathic, as they have no known history of asbestos exposure. Far too many women are unaware that talcum powder products like Cashmere Bouquet contained asbestos and may be the cause of their exposure.

Another, equally important possible source of exposure is through family members who work around asbestos. A 2014 study from the Danish Medical Journal found that nearly half of women diagnosed with mesothelioma were exposed to asbestos at home. Thus, this type of illness is often called "take-home" or "second-hand" mesothelioma.

Continue reading "Cancer from Asbestos-Containing Talcum Powder" »

SSD and SSDI Benefits for Lung Cancer, Mesothelioma Patients

April 28, 2015

file0001428407427.jpgHundreds of thousands of Americans are diagnosed with lung cancer and mesothelioma every year, which can make it impossible to earn a living. For this reason, the Social Security Administration offers disability benefits to patients with severe illnesses and injuries. Society security lawyers at Pintas & Mullins help clients through the process of applying for SSI or SSDI.

The list of diseases and injuries the government considers disabling are detailed in the Blue Book of impairment. The Blue Books includes malignant mesothelioma, lung cancer, and pulmonary insufficiency (including asbestosis). This is just one part of how Social Security determine if someone is disabled; for adults, it also considers past work experience, age, education, severity of medical condition, and work skills.

Benefits can come from one of two programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). To be eligible for one of these programs, cancer patients must prove:

1. A confirmed medical cancer diagnosis
2. Treatment will last or has lasted at least one year
3. The patient is unable to work because of their illness

It is also helpful to include medical history, biopsy results, and reports from surgical procedures. Unfortunately, not all cancer patients are guaranteed SSDI benefits, and it is common for initial claims to be denied.

Those applying for SSDI must have paid an adequate amount of Social Security taxes. Conversely, applicants who receive an income of more than $1,090 per month may not apply for SSDI, though there is an exception for blind individuals.

SSI benefits are designed to help supplement existing income, applying to patients or families with very low incomes and limited assets. Eligible applicants must be disabled, over the age of 65 and/or blind, and with income and assets below a certain level. SSI benefits are paid through a monthly income, and the amount can vary from year to year.

There are several other ways cancer patients can receive disability benefits, including through your employer and through federal grant programs. More information can be found here. Certain patients with very severe illnesses, such as mesothelioma, may speed up their application process under the Compassionate Allowances program.

Many types of conditions qualify for the Compassionate Allowances program, including cancers, traumatic brain injury, early-onset Alzheimer's, cardiovascular disease, and autoimmune diseases. A full list can be found here.

Pleural mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma, and small cell lung cancer all quality for the Compassionate Allowances program. Although mesothelioma rates are increasing, it is still a relatively rare cancer, which leads to misdiagnoses. Mesothelioma tumors and symptoms resemble many other conditions, so even highly trained pathologists can miss detection. The only known cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos, however, so anyone with a history of asbestos exposure should seek treatment and legal assistance immediately.

For those grappling with a mesothelioma diagnosis, we offer a free book that can answer an array of common questions. 101 Questions & Answers about Mesothelioma can be ordered here at absolutely no cost to you.

Processing and Denials

Most disability claims are processed through local Social Security Administration (SSA) offices and State agencies. If your claim is denied you may submit an appeal, which goes through a State Disability Determination Service or an administrative law judge. These judges work in the SSA's Office of Disability Adjudication and Review. Applications can be made in person, by mail, online, or by telephone.

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Yarway Creates $325 Million Asbestos Trust

April 9, 2015

asbestos-244234-m.jpgYarway Corp., a manufacturing company and unit of Tyco, recently filed for bankruptcy due to overwhelming asbestos liability. A judge approved its plan to pay $325 to a trust that will compensate thousands of current and future asbestos injury claims. Asbestos exposure attorneys at Pintas & Mullins explain what an asbestos trust is and how victims can apply for compensation.

After two years of negotiations, Yarway agreed to contribute all its available money to the asbestos trust after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Yarway's parent company, Tyco, agreed to fund the remainder of the trust to total $325 million.

Yarway was established in Pennsylvania in 1908 under the name Simplex Engineering. In 1986 it was purchased by Keystone International, which Tyco acquired in 1997. The asbestos exposure claims are from various products Yarway made, sold or distributed between the 1920s and 1970s, including control valves, steam traps and gauges.

Although the company stopped using asbestos entirely in 1988, decades of asbestos-related injury lawsuits depleted its resources. In the five years between 2008 and 2013, Yarway was hit with another 10,000 asbestos claims, costing it over $182 million in legal fees.

What is an Asbestos Trust?

Companies that mined, manufactured, distributed, or sold asbestos-containing products in the past face massive liability for asbestos-related injuries today. Due to this immense legal responsibility to pay injured claimants, many have gone bankrupt.

Under the Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Code, the government established the Gypsum Asbestos Personal Injury Settlement Trust (gypsum is another type of toxic mineral). This Trust is intended to pay all valid asbestos personal injury claims against these companies that declare bankruptcy. More information on this Trust can be found here, on its website.

There is currently approximately $30 billion in U.S. asbestos trusts. When someone is diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease - mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer, gastrointestinal cancer, etc. - they may sue the companies responsible for their exposure. If the company or companies responsible have filed for bankruptcy, the injured person would file a claim with its asbestos trust. All trusts are managed by trustees, who determine the amount of compensation paid to each claimant.

Most trusts have categories of disease types that determine how much the claimant receives. For example, patients diagnosed with mesothelioma would be in a different category than those with asbestosis, since asbestosis is not a fatal ailment and mesothelioma is extraordinarily fatal. Claimants must show medical evidence of their asbestos-related diagnoses as well as evidence regarding their exposure to be eligible.

Many patients were exposed to asbestos at more than one site, which may result in an asbestos lawsuit against a non-bankrupt company. Each state has its own laws on how patients file trust claims versus an asbestos lawsuit. It is critically important to hire an experienced asbestos exposure attorney who can help guide you through this process.

In 2008 alone, asbestos funds paid about $3.3 billion to victims and families. This compensation is meant to pay for past, current and future medical care, loss of quality of life, lost wages, pain and suffering, loss of a loved one, and funeral expenses. As mentioned, another $30 billion is available for patients and families.

Asbestos Lawsuits

It is important to note that these trusts are only established for companies that declare bankruptcy. There are many more companies that exposed people to asbestos that are still in operation. If the company responsible for exposure has not filed for Chapter 11, an injured victim should file an asbestos lawsuit.

One such asbestos suit in California recently concluded when Goodyear Tire & Rubber agreed to a settlement with the family of a man who died from mesothelioma. The man was a Navy aircraft repairman who worked with many asbestos-containing products throughout his career. After his death from mesothelioma in 2008, his wife and son sued several companies who contributed to his exposure and death.

Continue reading "Yarway Creates $325 Million Asbestos Trust" »

Mesothelioma Patient Awarded $1.6 Million for Second Hand Asbestos Exposure

April 1, 2015

3d-judges-gavel.jpgA man diagnosed with mesothelioma recently won $1.6 million in a lawsuit against a talcum powder supplier. The man was exposed to asbestos through contaminated talc brought home on his father's work clothing. Mesothelioma attorneys at Pintas & Mullins explain the very real dangers of this type of second hand asbestos exposure.

The plaintiff in this case, Steven Kaenzig, was regularly exposed to raw talcum powder as a child by playing and interacting with his father when he returned home from work. Kaenzig's father worked at Shulton Inc. from 1967 to 1975, each day coming home covered in talc dust. Shulton manufactured Old Spice and Desert Flower talcum powder products.

When Kaenzig was diagnosed with mesothelioma - an extremely rare and deadly cancer - he filed suit against the company that supplied asbestos-containing talc to Shulton. His case concluded in 2013, with the $1.6 million award to Kaenzig and his wife.

The defendant, Whittaker Clark & Daniels, challenged the decision in the New Jersey Appellate Division. The three-judge panel rejected Whittaker's challenge, saying Kaenzig's successfully proved that Whittaker knew that the raw talc it supplied to Shulton contained asbestos, was aware that this was dangerous, and still failed to warn about the talc's risks.

The panel also found Kaenzig reasonably proved that he was exposed to the talc dust through his father's work clothing, since his mother cleaned his father's clothing each day after work, sending talc and asbestos particles into the air. Asbestos-related illnesses are caused by the inhalation of airborne asbestos particles.

It is important to note that the judges in this case did not treat this asbestos exposure case any differently than any other asbestos suit. So-called second hand asbestos exposure (otherwise referred to as bystander, domestic, non-occupational or take home exposure) is not always considered credible in state courts. Fortunately, New Jersey recognizes that cosmetic talcum powder is just as likely to contain asbestos and infect bystanders as any other asbestos-containing product.

Scientific researchers agree that there is no safe level of asbestos - any amount, at any point in a person's life, can lead to asbestosis, lung cancer, or mesothelioma down the road. Of course, the likelihood that someone will ultimately develop one of these asbestos-related illnesses increases if exposure was immense or occurred over a long period of time; but even children exposed to dust from their father's work clothing are at risk.

This can also apply to employees who do not work directly with asbestos or asbestos-containing products, but who work in the same vicinity. Among the hundreds of studies of persons working with and around asbestos, the term "bystander" changes in definition. There are usually two types of bystanders:

1. Those working in close vicinity to workers with high rates of exposure, such as insulation work.

2. Maintenance workers and building occupants, such as family members.

Both can be used as grounds in a lawsuit claiming exposure to asbestos, but there must be a documented disease. More than 10,000 people are diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness every year, and asbestos is considered to be responsible for about half of all occupational cancer deaths.

Second hand exposure cases rely on the claim that companies knew that asbestos was dangerous but failed to ever warn employees. Because workers had no idea the dust they were taking home on their clothes could cause cancer, they took no precautions to protect their families, loved ones, and themselves, from exposure.

Continue reading "Mesothelioma Patient Awarded $1.6 Million for Second Hand Asbestos Exposure" »

Mesothelioma Patient Awarded $4 Million

March 25, 2015

2188270063_9ae284a502_o.jpgA former worker of Chicago Pneumatic, a tool manufacturing plant, recently won $4 million in a lawsuit over his mesothelioma. The plaintiff, Nicholas Dominick, developed mesothelioma and lung cancer from being exposed to asbestos at Chicago Pneumatic. Mesothelioma lawyers at Pintas & Mullins detail this case and the circumstances that led to the plaintiff's cancer diagnosis.

Dominick was exposed to asbestos through the heat treatment processes at Chicago Pneumatic, an industrial manufacturer that sells power tools, generators, hydraulic equipment and air compressors. Asbestos was, and remains, a common ingredient in industrial products because of its extraordinary heat and fire resistance. Not only could it be used in a wide range of applications, but the material was inexpensive to buy from distributors.

How Factory Workers are Exposed to Asbestos

The health dangers of asbestos have been known since the 1930s, when the first medical reports were published on lung diseases in workers handling the material. Over the next several decades, study after study was published confirming the link between debilitating and fatal diseases and exposure to asbestos.

Industrial companies already relied heavily on the material, however, and resisted moving to more expensive materials for their products. Despite knowing that inhaling asbestos could lead to lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma, American corporations failed to inform their employees that working with or around it could be at all dangerous.

This is how workers like Dominick and millions of others like him were exposed. Companies like Chicago Pneumatic bought asbestos-containing products from distributors, which blatantly chose not to disclose the serious health risks of asbestos. Employees then were never warned, never given protective equipment, and are now dying by the thousands from asbestos-related diseases.

Dominick's lawsuit was not filed against the manufacturing plant he worked for, but against the company that supplied it asbestos products, Pacemaker Steel & Piping Co. The jury found Pacemaker responsible for causing his cancer from the asbestos-containing bags and boards it supplied to Chicago Pneumatic.

The $4 million award is the largest asbestos verdict in New York against a distributor, and the largest asbestos verdict ever in Oneida County. Dominick's lawsuit also named another company, Caterpillar Inc., for causing his asbestos exposure. This exposure occurred at a different job, for the New York State Department of Transportation. Dominick believed he was exposed to asbestos through brakes and other vehicle parts manufactured by Caterpillar.

Brakes, gaskets and many other auto parts used to be made with large quantities of asbestos, again because of its heat resistance. Many auto companies - including Ford, which we recently reported on here - have faced liability for exposing mechanics, factory workers, and other employees to asbestos.

In the middle of Dominick's trial Caterpillar decided to settle in a confidential deal.
Another New York asbestos trial is currently ongoing against Amtrak. The suit was filed by dozens of Amtrak's insurers over liability for exposing workers to asbestos and other toxic chemicals, among other issues. The insurers are asking to court to decide whether they are required to cover Amtrak for asbestos liability claims, which total millions of dollars.

Continue reading "Mesothelioma Patient Awarded $4 Million" »

Ford Sued for Overseas Asbestos Exposure

March 6, 2015

1171618992_74ec7adc23_o.jpgA man diagnosed with mesothelioma recently filed a lawsuit against Ford Motor Co., for use of asbestos in their auto parts. The man, Raymond Finerty, worked as a mechanic in Ireland though he is now a United States citizen. Mesothelioma lawyers at Pintas & Mullins detail this case below.

Ford attempted to have Finerty's lawsuit thrown out because his exposure occurred overseas, however, the New York court ruled that the company will have to face the suit because of its substantial role in the design of the parts used in Ireland.

Finerty worked as a mechanic in Ireland from the 1960s to 1980s, where he was exposed to asbestos through auto parts. The only cause of mesothelioma, a deadly cancer, is exposure to asbestos.

The New York court ruled that Ford USA acted as a guardian to the global Ford brand, enacting a large role in the design, development and use of the auto parts used by Ford UK. This led the court to posit that Ford USA may be held directly liable for distributing asbestos-containing auto parts, since it was in the best position to improve auto part safety or improve warnings about the hazards of asbestos.

Finerty was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2009 and filed suit in 2010. His asbestos exposure lawsuit was filed against numerous auto part manufacturers, such as Abex Corp., which have all been resolved with the exception of Ford.

This is an important ruling because it is one of the first where Ford has been held legally responsible for its role in European products. This could potentially allow people exposed to asbestos through Ford's products all over the world to have legal options.
Finerty's case is expected to go to trial in the upcoming months.

Auto Parts and Asbestos Exposure

Mechanics and people who work in auto repair are at unusually high risk of asbestos exposure and the illnesses that result from it: mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis. Brakes and clutch parts have traditionally included asbestos, due to the substance's extreme heat and fire resistance. Workers are exposed by the dust emitting from the brake disk, drum, clutch cover, or wheel when these are removed.

Unfortunately, no one can tell whether a brake or clutch contains asbestos just by looking at it, and there are many small dust particles that cannot be seen with the eye. At-home and professional mechanics often have no idea they have been exposed to asbestos until they are diagnosed with cancer or asbestosis. For more information on EPA-recommended best practices for auto mechanics and asbestos, follow this link.

Numerous lawsuits have been filed against auto part companies on behalf of exposure victims. One of the most recent cases ended in July 2014, when a mesothelioma victim in California received more than $2 million. The man in this case sued Pneumo Abex for its design and manufacturing of asbestos-containing brakes. The jury found that there was substantial evidence that he was exposed to asbestos by sanding Abex's brakes.

Continue reading "Ford Sued for Overseas Asbestos Exposure" »

Asbestos Exposure at Ceramics Factory Leads to $10.6 Million Award

February 26, 2015

13727533084_58bc353eed_c.jpgThe family of an Indiana man exposed to asbestos during a high school job was recently awarded $10.6 million. The man, Richard Chisholm, developed mesothelioma and died at the age of 52. Our team of mesothelioma lawyers reminds the public that any amount of asbestos exposure can cause cancer.

Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer that is only caused by exposure to asbestos. Although it is rare, mesothelioma is almost always deadly: just 5 - 10% of patients can expect to survive five years after diagnosis. The survival rate is so low because by the time symptoms appear and cancer is diagnosed, the disease is often in its latest stages.

According to the American Cancer Society, three out of every four mesothelioma diagnoses can be directly linked to asbestos exposure. Generally, most patients were exposed in the workplace when they breathed in asbestos fibers.

When asbestos fibers are inhaled they penetrate the lining of the lungs and chest wall, damaging the cells. Over time (typically between 20-50 years), this cellular damage develops into mesothelioma, asbestosis, or lung cancer. In fact, lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis are the top three leading causes of death among people with heavy exposure to asbestos.

Workers most vulnerable to asbestos exposure include: miners, factory workers, construction workers, insulation manufacturers or installers, railroad and automotive workers, ship builders, and gas mask manufacturers. It is important to note that family members of these types of workers are also vulnerable to asbestos exposure, as asbestos can easily travel from work to home on their clothing.

Talc / Asbestos Lawsuits

Richard Chisholm exemplifies the fact that even the smallest, briefest exposure to asbestos can be fatal. During high school in the 1970s, Chisholm worked at a ceramics factory in Ohio that used Vanderbilt talc in its products. Until very recently, R.T. Vanderbilt Inc, operated a talc mine in Gouverneur, New York, that was contaminated with asbestos.

Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral present in rocks and soil, like other natural minerals such as talc. Talc and a specific type of asbestos (called tremolite asbestos) are created by the same geologic process, meaning that they occur in the same rocks and sediment. Thus, when talc is mined it is often contaminated with tremolite asbestos.

Tremolite asbestos is the most carcinogenic type of asbestos. This is likely part of the reason why Chisholm developed mesothelioma after such a short duration of exposure.

In his trial, the jury was shown evidence that Vanderbilt received test results proving that its talc was contaminated with asbestos even before the 1970s, when Chisholm was exposed. An expert witness then confirmed that Chisholm's lung tissue contained the same type of asbestos found in Vanderbilt's talc. The jury ultimately ruled that Vanderbilt was negligent in failing to provide asbestos warnings on its talc product.

Vanderbilt mined this asbestos-containing talc in New York from 1948 to 2007. Many former Vanderbilt workers have developed mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer, later suing the company for their exposure. Other workers, like Chisholm, who worked directly with Vanderbilt's talc products have also filed suit for their illnesses.

Continue reading "Asbestos Exposure at Ceramics Factory Leads to $10.6 Million Award" »

Immunotherapy for Mesothelioma

February 23, 2015

leukemia-treatment-immune-system-t-cells-center-binding-to-beads-which-cause-the-cells-to-divide.jpgFor decades, the first-line treatment for lung cancer and mesothelioma has centered on three therapies: surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Within the last few years doctors, researchers and patients have been investing in an alternative treatment type known generally as immunotherapy. Mesothelioma lawyers at Pintas & Mullins explore the ins and outs of this new therapy.

Immunotherapy fights cancer by using the body's own immune system in different ways, strengthening the system or making it more responsive to cancer cells. Drug companies are recognizing the massive potential here, investing in research and development for immunotherapy drugs. Two of the newest medications, Opdivo and Yervoy, are poised to generate $8.5 billion in revenue by 2020.

Some medical experts are pointing to the potential for these drugs to actually cure cancer, rather than sending patients into remission. Currently, only two drug companies have had immunotherapies approved by the FDA (Merck & Co and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.), though many others have projects in progress.

The idea of using our own immune system to combat cancer is not new - it has been a goal in oncology dating since the 19th century. It was not until the mid-1990s, however, that the first breakthrough was made by Dr. James Allison.

Dr. Allison is now the head of immunology at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas. His breakthrough involved discovering how to release a natural stopping mechanism in the immune system, paving the way for the drug Yervoy, which is approved to treat melanoma.

Fortunately, lung cancer is one of the major diseases research and development is focused on. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide, causing more deaths than prostate, colon, and breast cancers combined. This is due in part by the widespread prevalence of the risk factors associated with lung cancer, such as smoking and exposure to asbestos, radiation, and pollution.

Clinical Trials for Lung Cancer, Mesothelioma Immunotherapies

Researchers are taking several approaches to immunotherapy for lung cancer, including treatments for mesothelioma. One particularly promising type of immunotherapy for mesothelioma is called checkpoint inhibitors.

Immune checkpoint inhibitors work by targeting cells that balance the regulation of immune response. These treatments strengthen pre-existing anti-tumor immune responses by either inhibiting or stimulating molecules. Tremelimumab is currently being tested in a phase II clinical trial for patients with mesothelioma.

Another type of immunotherapy treatments showing promise for this type of cancer are therapeutic vaccines. Vaccines target tumor-specific antigens expressed in most lung cancers. One of these specifically targeting mesothelioma is called the WT1 antigen vaccine, which is currently in phase II clinical trials. This vaccine is being tested in mesothelioma patients who have completed surgery and chemotherapy or radiation. Another, TroVax, is also in phase II testing.

Adoptive T-cell transfer is a third major area of immunotherapy research, focusing on removing then reintroducing T-cells in patients. These cells are modified with chemicals to enhance their activity then reintroduced into the patient, ideally improving the immune system's anti-cancer response. A drug called mesothelin is currently in phase I/II clinical trials for mesothelioma patients.

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$7.5 Million Award to Construction Worker Exposed to Asbestos

January 20, 2015

black-construction-worker-in-south-side-chicago-10-1973.jpgA former construction worker in California recently won $7.5 million against several companies responsible for his asbestos exposure. The construction worker helped install underground water and sewer lines under the Sacramento Valley, working with asbestos-containing pipes and cement and ultimately developing mesothelioma. Asbestos exposure lawyers at Pintas & Mullins detail this case and others just like it throughout the country.

The plaintiff in this case worked in construction during the 1970s and 80s, when the dangers of asbestos were known and proven. Although asbestos was entirely banned in the 1980s, the asbestos industry lobbied the government to overturn the ban, which it did in 1991. That case was the Corrosion Proof Fittings v. the Environmental Protection Agency. More on this issue can be found here, on the EPA's website.

Medical experts, government officials and industry executives have known about the fatal side effects of asbestos exposure since the 1930s, when the causal relationship between asbestos and caner was proven. Asbestos was originally considered a miracle product, since it was relatively inexpensive and had a wide range of applications, from fireproofing to insulating.

Asbestos was used in countless industries, exposing countless workers and their families. Perhaps the most disheartening fact of this devastation is that companies knew exactly how dangerous asbestos exposure was; they knew it was the only known cause of asbestosis, a chronic lung disorder, and mesothelioma, an extraordinarily fatal cancer. Asbestos is also a contributing factor to most lung cancers.

The plaintiff in California is a perfect example of an innocent employee now suffering from cancer caused by asbestos. The man worked with pipes made from concrete-asbestos materials, and his work would generate enormous amounts of asbestos dust. He often left work covered from head to toe with this dust.

When asbestos becomes airborne and breathed into the lungs, the fibers remain lodged in lung tissue for decades. Over many years, the asbestos fibers cause inflammation, scarring, and cellular changes consistent with tumor development. Although it takes a long time - often decades - for asbestos to develop into cancer, it takes only a few months for that cancer to spread to other organs and advance into its later, and most fatal stages.

Whether or not someone exposed to asbestos ultimately develops mesothelioma, lung cancer, or asbestosis is largely determined by genetics, lifestyle, duration and amount of exposure, and simple bad luck. You may have seen news headlines lately on this last point: that a large percentage of adult cancers are caused by random cell mutations. That is why some people work with asbestos for many years and never develop cancer, while others are exposed only briefly and are later diagnosed with mesothelioma.

The California plaintiff clearly knew exactly when, where and how he was exposed to asbestos, and sued the companies responsible for his exposure. Other mesothelioma and lung cancer patients have no idea when they were exposed to asbestos and are concerned that they have no legal ability to gain justice.

That is where our firm comes in. We have a wide network of legal professionals, medical experts, and investigators that enable us to accept clients throughout the country, and determine the when and how of where you were exposed. We know exactly what companies manufactured asbestos-containing products, and what types of industries had the most exposure.

Continue reading "$7.5 Million Award to Construction Worker Exposed to Asbestos" »

Auto Part Company Agrees to $360 in Asbestos Settlements

January 14, 2015

6033243770_ed776df82f_b.jpgGarlock Sealing Technologies, the top American manufacturer of industrial gasket products, recently agreed to settle all asbestos injury claims for $358 million. The plan was born out of Garlock's bankruptcy case, during which the company promised to pay off all present and future asbestos claims. Asbestos cancer lawyers at Pintas & Mullins applaud Garlock for upholding this promise.

Garlock's parent company, EnPro Industries, stated that he plan will provide payments to all claimants who suffer from asbestos-related diseases from exposure to Garlock's products. Garlock entered bankruptcy in June 2010, when more than 900,000 asbestos claims were pending. These asbestos claims largely contributed to the company's bankruptcy.

Throughout the 20th century Garlock Sealing Technologies used asbestos to make many products, such as gaskets, packaging materials, seals, and sheet gaskets. The lawsuits against Garlock involve not just Garlock's employees, but also pipe fitters, boiler mechanics, and other workers who were exposed to asbestos through Garlock's products. In 2008, for example, a former boiler mechanic won a $12 million verdict against Garlock for his development of mesothelioma, a cancer caused by asbestos exposure.

Today, about 100,000 similar claims are pending against Garlock. Similar to many of its competitors, such as Union Carbondale and W.R. Grace & Co., Garlock is choosing to file for bankruptcy and establish an asbestos trust to pay these claims.

Union Carbondale and W.R. Grace are often named as co-defendants in asbestos suits against Garlock, as these companies also made asbestos-containing products with a wide range of applications. Their products have endangered and sickened employees from many occupations in every state. Among these workers include plumbers, miners, electricians, steel workers, factory workers, and countless others. Of course, those who worked specifically for Garlock manufacturing its asbestos-containing products were also exposed.

Garlock is infamous for the amount of litigation it faces, often cited as one of the most-sued companies in American history. It has already paid more than $1.4 billion in asbestos settlements in judgments over the last 35 years.

Under its bankruptcy claim, claimants can choose one of two options: either join a group that is subject to less scrutiny and faster payouts and agree to a maximum $1,000 claim, or pursue litigation, which is more timely and recoveries are not guaranteed. EnPro has agreed to pay up to $30 million to fund settlements if need be.

Asbestos-Related Diseases

When breathed into the lungs, asbestos fibers lodge into the lung tissue and remain there permanently. Over many years (often between 20 and 50 years), these asbestos fibers migrate into the surrounding tissue, change cell DNA, and cause serious illnesses. Among the diseases known to be caused by exposure to asbestos include: lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. More information on asbestos-related illnesses can be found here.

In the U.S., up to 4,000 people are diagnosed with an illness caused by exposure every year. Mesothelioma is the most severe of these illnesses, as it is incurable and among the most fatal cancers. There are four types of mesothelioma, though all occur in the thin lining - the mesothelium - surrounding the internal organs, such as the heart, lungs, and abdomen. The most common type is pleural mesothelioma, which affects the lungs.

Lung cancer is also highly associated with asbestos exposure. Many studies have proven that asbestos and cigarette smoking have a synergistic affect in the lungs, causing cancer to develop faster and more aggressively than if someone was exposed to only one of these. Thus, anyone who has been diagnosed with lung cancer, even if they are a former smoker, may be able to file an asbestos claim.

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$5 Million Verdict against Philip Morris Upheld for Lifelong Smoker

January 8, 2015

504708410_07231d4d77_b.jpgIn July 2014, a Florida jury awarded the widow of a lifelong smoker $5.5 million for his smoking-related illness. The defendant in this case, Philip Morris USA, attempted to appeal the verdict, though the Florida appeals court upheld the July opinion. Lung cancer lawyers at Pintas & Mullins detail this case, and how other former smokers or their families could file similar lawsuits.

The lawsuit was filed by Florence Mulholland on behalf of her deceased husband, who passed way from lung cancer from smoking cigarettes. In her case, Mulholland had to prove that her husband suffered from a smoking-related illness, that he was addicted to cigarettes containing nicotine, and that his addiction led to the stated illness.

This is widely considered a landmark case, as it is the first federal tobacco verdict that has been upheld on appeal in the state of New York. The appeals court also rejected Philip Morris' argument that David Mulholland's testimony should not have been allowed in court. In his testimony, David stated that he would not have started smoking cigarettes as a teen in the 1960s if he had known smoking causes cancer.

Mulholland's case was filed in 2005 and went to trial in 2013. Ultimately, the jury awarded Florence Mulholland and her daughter $5.5 million for their immense loss. About a million of that award was paid by a second defendant, an auto repair shop where David worked. Auto repair shop employees are exposed to a certain toxic substance, asbestos, that can cause or contribute to lung cancer development.

Asbestos, Smoking and Lung Cancer

Asbestos is a fiber-like mineral that was used widely throughout the 20th century in building materials, auto parts, and in shipyards among many, many other industries. Nearly everyone has been exposed to asbestos at some point in their lives, though more often than not the exposure occurs without notice. When asbestos fibers are breathed into the lungs - most often through occupational exposure -the fibers become lodged in the lung tissue. Over a long time, usually between 20 and 50 years, the fibers affect the surrounding tissue and cause cellular changes that lead to lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.

Exposure to asbestos is the basis for many injury lawsuits filed by victims with lung cancer or their surviving families. Even former smokers are able to pursue injury claims against any defendant who exposed them to asbestos at some point in time, as asbestos is a known carcinogen that can, as mentioned either contribute to or directly cause cancer development.

Another win for lung cancer plaintiffs recently occurred in Florida, after a million-dollar verdict for a widow was upheld against Phillip Morris. Nikitas Damianakis was a lifelong smoker who ultimately passed away from his smoking-related illness. His widow, Elaine, sued Philip Morris for the wrongful death of her husband, who died from complications of emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Their lawsuit stemmed from the Engle class action in Florida that, in the mid-1990s, sued American cigarette manufacturers and won more than $145 billion for those who contracted serious illnesses from becoming addicted to cigarettes. In 2006, the Florida Supreme Court decertified the class, yet allowed each individual plaintiff to sue Big Tobacco on their own personal claims.

Continue reading "$5 Million Verdict against Philip Morris Upheld for Lifelong Smoker" »

Illinois Cancer Patients Granted More Time to File Suit

December 17, 2014

cancer-and-lung-disease-hazard.jpgCertain lung cancer and mesothelioma patients in Illinois now have four years - instead of the previous two - to file a claim against the companies responsible for their illness. Patients impacted by this law change are those affiliated with construction or improvement to real estate. Lung cancer lawyers at Pintas & Mullins are grateful to report on this new law.

The extension of the statute of limitations (SOL) is important for many reasons, not least of which because of the severity of asbestos-caused lung cancer and mesothelioma. Asbestos is a fiber-like mineral that is commonly found in insulation, pipe coverings, and other friction materials, and was used in nearly all buildings, ships and automobiles until the mid-1970s.

Although it was banned by the EPA in the 70s, the total ban was overturned, and asbestos continues to be used to today. It is also still quite prevalent in older buildings, vehicles, sea vessels, and other products.

Another important reason why the SOL has been extended has to do with the time period between when asbestos exposure occurs and when cancer ultimately is found. Typically, it takes between 20-50 years for asbestos fibers to develop into lung cancer, mesothelioma, asbestosis, or another asbestos-related illness.

To get a better picture of how this will affect real victims of exposure, one can look at a case filed in March 2014, Nina Simone v. Etta James Corp. The plaintiff in this case, Nina Simone, worked for 25 years installing asbestos exposure in Chicago. In the mid-1980s, Simone moved to New York where she currently resides.

In 1988, Simone was diagnosed with asbestosis, a severe respiratory disease; just one year later Simone was diagnosed with mesothelioma. She filed suit against Etta James Corp., which manufactured the asbestos insulation she worked with for so many years. The court ruled that, in cases of toxic exposure, the injury occurs at the place and time of exposure - in this case, in Chicago between 1955 and 1980. On appeal, the New York Supreme Court reversed the decision, stating that the New York laws should be applied.

In New York, the statue starts to run at the time the illness is discovered, so Simone would have had three years to file a lawsuit after her 1989 mesothelioma diagnosis. If her case had been subject to Illinois law, she would have had only two years to file.

For most cancer patients even the smallest amount of time is a big deal. Only about 40% of mesothelioma patients live past the first year of diagnosis, and that time should be spent with friends, family and loved ones. Allowing more time for cancer patients to consider legal action against the parties responsible for their exposure is an expression of compassion that is rare in our current criminal justice system.

People who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma must face how, where, and with who they will be treated. They and their families face exorbitant medical bills and the financial burden can devastate families. That is where we come in. We know that a cancer diagnosis changes the lives of patients and their loved ones, so we take on the responsibilities of finding out when, where, and how your exposure occurred. We never charge any out-of-pocket attorneys' fees, and only get paid if we are successful in your case. If you are not awarded any money, we do not get paid.

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Lung Cancer Case Ends in $24 Billion Verdict

December 15, 2014

3344761178_322fd39b27_o.jpgIn the summer of 2014, a jury in Florida imposed a punitive damage award of $24 billion on R.J. Reynolds, the country's second-largest tobacco companies. The lawsuit against Reynolds was filed on behalf of a man who died of lung cancer at the age of 36. Lung cancer lawyers at Pintas & Mullins detail this case, and why Reynolds isn't concerned about a $24 billion verdict.

Michael Johnson Sr. passed away in 1996 after two decades of smoking cigarettes; specifically, Kool cigarettes, manufactured by R.J. Reynolds. His widow filed a lawsuit on behalf of his estate, accusing Reynolds of deliberately hiding the health risks of their products.

The trial lasted four weeks, and the jury deliberated over two days. Their final verdict awarded Johnson's widow $17 million in compensatory damages and $23.6 billion in punitive damages. "Compensatory" damages are awarded to compensate the plaintiff for the injuries they have suffered, such as medical bills, lost income, and lost life. "Punitive" damages can only be awarded in certain circumstances, when the jury feels the defendant should be punished and deterred from similar misconduct, intentionally disregarding the rights of the plaintiff.

This type of massive award against Big Tobacco is rare but not unheard of. In 2002, a Los Angeles ordered Philip Morris, a cigarette manufacturer, to pay $28 billion in punitive damages. Four years after that award, the Florida Supreme Court decertified a class action against Big Tobacco, which succeeded in the amount of $145 billion. This class action was known as the Engle case, and although the award was reversed, the Engle claimants were still allowed to sue individually. This is what set the stage for Michael Johnson's case, and thousands of others like it in Florida.

What many people do not know is that Big Tobacco can afford to pay out these mutli-million dollar awards, particularly if they are spread out over time. The cigarette industry makes over $90 billion every year in revenue, and companies long ago started factoring in victims' lawsuits into their costs of doing business.

New Drug for Aggressive Cancer Patients

In related news, the FDA recently expanded the approved uses of Cyramza (ramucirumab) to now treat patients with aggressive non-small cell lung cancer, which is the most common form of lung cancer.

Cyramza works to treat lung cancer by blocking the blood supply that feeds tumors. It is intended for patients whose tumors grew during or after platinum-based chemotherapy. Cyramza should be taken alongside a type of chemotherapy that uses the drug docetaxel.

The drug was initially approved to treat stomach cancer, or GEJ (gastroesophageal junction adenocarcinoma), which affects the organs where the esophagus meets the stomach. The decision to approve Cyramza for lung cancer is the result of clinical study of more than 1,200 patients. These study participants had been diagnosed with lung cancer that was progressive despite previous treatment.

Patients were randomly assigned to receive either a placebo and a chemotherapy drug, or Cyramza and the chemo drug. Results from this study showed that half of the patients who were given Cyramza plus the chemo drug lived for an average of 10.5 months from the time they started treatment. Those who received the placebo survived about 9 months after starting treatment.

Two months may not seem like a large improvement, but for lung cancer it is considered significant. Adding drugs like Cyramza to chemotherapy regimens is gaining popularity, as it allows a more targeted approach to fighting the cancer, ultimately improving survival and outcomes. As stated, Cyramza is one such drug, working to cut off the blood supply to the tumors by blocking the messages that cancer cells send to attract new blood vessels.

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