Archive for January, 2008

Dannon Activia Lawsuit

Friday, January 25th, 2008

Dannon Activia is a yogurt that claims to help regulate your digestive system. The difference between Dannon and most other yogurts is Dannon contains probiotic bacteria. Probiotic bacteria are live bacteria that are supposed to not only help regulate your digestion, but also help improve your immune system. Probiotic bacteria can be found naturally in your intestinal tract, but scientists say that as you age, good bacteria such as probiotic will decrease. Dannon has claimed their yogurt will help replenish the good bacterium to your system, thus improving your health.

These yogurts with probiotic bacteria have helped boost Dannon’s sales. It is expected that in 2008, Activia and DanActive (another yogurt by Dannon with a different bacteria that claims to “help strengthen your body’s defense”) will produce about 40% of the company’s yogurt business. In its first year of release, Dannon grossed approximately $100 million from this yogurt line.

However, a lawsuit filed in the Los Angeles federal court is saying Dannon fooled consumers into paying more for Activia based on the false advertising campaign. The lawsuit seeks to reimburse consumers as well as have Dannon correct their advertising campaign. While the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization says probiotics have a beneficial health effect, it must be backed up by research. The Food and Drug Administration does not get involved in such claims, but rather looks for labels in which a product claims to equate the probiotic products with disease-curing drugs.

The lawsuit against Dannon says that even their own studies failed to prove that Activia has health benefits superior to other brands of yogurt. Yet, Dannon has stated these yogurts were proven “clinically” and “scientifically” to have health benefits. In the lawsuit, it is mentioned that Dannon charges about 30% more for the Activia and DanActive yogurt lines than other yogurts. The lawsuit also contains scientific reports showing that there is no conclusive evidence proving that probiotic bacteria can benefit adults. One such report was released by the American Academy of Microbiology, which states, “At present, the quality of probiotics available to consumers in food products around the world is unreliable.”

Trish Weiner filed the lawsuit in Los Angeles on January 23, saying that the “only effect that it had on me was that it tasted poorly.” Weiner’s lawyer, Tim Blood, with the San Diego firm Coughlin Stoia, said, “Companies are getting more and more aggressive in their advertising claims. They end up playing off people’s general fears and concerns.” He claims Weiner suffered an “economic injury” and believes if settled, the lawsuit could amount to as much as $300 million dollars.

You can read dannon’s response to the lawsuit here.

Hormone Replacement Therapy

Thursday, January 3rd, 2008

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is used to treat menopausal, perimenopausal, and postmenopausal women. It is used to help prevent discomfort (such as hot flashes or night sweats) and health problems that occur due to diminished circulating estrogen and progesterone hormones. When a woman receives HRT, she usually gets a series of drugs that help artificially boost her estrogen, progesterone (or progestins), and perhaps even testosterone hormone levels.

Three of the drugs often used in HRT are Premarin, Provera, and Prempro. Permarin is the commercial name for a drug that consists of conjugated estrogens. Provera is a medication used to replace progesterone or progestins in the body. Prempro is a hormone therapy drug that combines both estrogen and progestin.

Almost two-thirds of all breast cancers are either estrogen-receptor positive (ER positive) or progesterone-receptor positive (PR positive). Several studies have linked the use of HRT with an increased chance of breast cancer. Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) released their findings of an HRT study in 2002. It said that women who used the combined HRT – that has both estrogen and progestin – carried not only an increased chance of breast cancer, but also heart disease, stroke, blood clots, and urinary incontinence.

One study done by Public Health Sciences (PHS) said that women who take HRT for five years or more have doubled their risk of developing breast cancer. The study found that these women are not only twice as likely to develop breast cancer, but as they continue their combined estrogen and progestin HRT, the risk of breast cancer increases.

In 2003, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center published a report that said women over the age of 65 who have taken the combined HRT for five to fifteen years or fifteen or more years face a 100 percent increase in breast cancer risk. One thing that prompted the researchers to study women over the age of 65, specifically age 65 to 79, was that this group of women were accounting for more than a third of all newly diagnosed breast cancer malignancies in the U.S.

It wasn’t until the summer of 2002 that the findings of many of these studies were known to the public. At that time, it is believed that about 13 million women were on HRT and as soon as the studies began to show the link to breast cancer, many quit their therapies cold turkey. By 2003, the rate of breast cancer in women ages 50-69 began to decline, and many researchers believed it was due to the reduced use of HRT.

However, there were millions of women that were on HRT for a long time before the studies. These women are now filing lawsuits against the makers of the HRT drugs. In 2007, Scharlotte Fitzgerald filed a federal lawsuit against Pfizer and Wyeth. She began taking their HRT drugs in 1994. In 2001, before the studies were made public, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She is seeking $75,000 in damages claiming negligence and saying the companies failed to warn her of the risks of taking HRT. Betty Wynn began HRT in 1998 and only stopped taking the therapy after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002. She too is suing Pfizer and Wyeth. In Betty’s home state of Arkansas, there are about 4,400 cases against the makers of the HRT drugs.

This year, a Nevada jury found Wyeth liable of negligence, product defect, and causation. They awarded three plaintiffs $35 million in compensatory damages and $99 million in punitive damages.

If you or someone you know was taking Premarin, Provera, and/or Prempro as part of hormone replacement therapy before 2002 and now suffers from breast cancer, they may have a case against the drug manufacturers. Contact a lawyer as soon as possible to see if they have a case.