Medicine: the good, the bad and the law


By Edna Ward
Opelika Observer

Prescription medications can make a big difference in our lives.  Medicines can cure some diseases, prevent some, slow the progress of many and then, in some cases, give us grief with adverse side effects.
Drug companies spend millions in research, development and clinical trials.  A US patent gives the manufacturers protection and exclusivity from competition for 20 years.  Lower price generic versions of such discoveries can only be marketed after the patent expires.
With no disrespect to the many fine people of the legal, medical and pharmaceutical communities, there seems to be a strange connection between advertising blitzes for new drugs and lawsuits over the side effects of those drugs – at least, that is the perception from advertisements by the drug companies and the personal injury lawyers on television.
Not long ago TV ads for Xarelto seemed to appear almost every day.  What is the purpose of the medication? Who manufactures it? Where is the manufacturer located? Those are reasonable questions because medicines are now manufactured worldwide. It is difficult to find answers.
According to Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.’s web pages, Xarelto is a prescription medicine used to reduce the risk of stroke or blood clots.  The advertised advantage over other medications for this purpose is that  Xarelto requires no monitoring.  Sounds like a marvelous dream come true for the many patients using other medications that do require monitoring.
Xarelto is licensed from Bayer Healthcare AG Leverkussen, Germany, to Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.  headquartered in Beerse, Belgium. Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceuticals Research and Development, an American company, acquired Janssen in 1961.
It wasn’t long after these intriguing advertisements for Xarelto began until legal advertisements followed:  “If you, or a loved one, have been injured … .”  Who are these lawyers who only give an 800 telephone number to call and where are they located? There is information in very small print on these advertisements at the bottom of the screen, which are visible for a very short time.  I have often wanted to read the fine print, but by the time I move closer to the screen, that part of the ad is long gone.
One legal group, DrugJustice, Inc., is located in Plano, Texas. another, Sokolove Law Firm, is in Boston, Mass.  These firms are often licensed to practice in many states, including Alabama.
An article written by Francis Storrs for Boston Magazine from January 2009, gives a detailed report of Attorney James Sokolove.  According to this article – remember, 2009 – “Sokolove’s firm is currently keeping tabs on some 10,000 open cases … While he and lawyers working with him have pocketed $500 million for their trouble.”  Anyone wishing to read that whole article can enter “He’s Attorney James Sokolove Boston Magazine” in their Internet browsers.
Xarelto is not the only pharmaceutical to have been noticed by personal injury lawyers.  Would you believe Sildenafil is another?  Do you recognize that one?  That’s the chemical name.  The brand name is Viagra, a popular, small blue pill accidentally discovered and manufactured by Pfizer – headquartered in New York.  When this discovery was made, the researchers were actually trying to find an alternative to nitroglycerine.
In June 2014, “A Prospective Cohort Study of Sildenafil Use and Increased Risk of Incident Melanoma in U. S. Men” was published in the Journal of American Medicine Association – Internal Medicine.  The authors concluded: “Sildenafil use may be associated with an increased risk of developing melanoma.  Although this study is insufficient to alter clinical recommendation, we support a need for continued investigation of this association.”
Melanoma is a very serious form of cancer.  If nothing else is gained from this article, let it be the importance to get any change or irregularity in a mole or skin lesion checked.  The best chance for a good outcome with melanoma is early detection and treatment.
The above study has already come to the attention of lawyers.  Kline & Specter, a Philadelphia, Pa., law firm, advertises “Viagra Melanoma Lawsuits.” They also provide this information about their firm:  “With more than 30 lawyers, several of whom are also highly skilled medical doctors, has the experience and expertise to litigate pharmaceutical injury cases.  The firm was a key player in the $4.85 billion Vioxx settlement and has won large settlements in lawsuits involving medications.”
According to Merck’s web pages, Vioxx a NSAID (Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drug), was manufactured by Merck to treat arthritis and associated pain was approved by the FDA in 1999. Merck voluntarily removed Vioxx from the market in 2004.
These are but a few. There have been many other lawsuits and hefty fines imposed by the U.S. Justice Department related to pharmaceuticals.
Be that as it may, here come the lawyers.


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