Mirena: Turning a Blind Eye

by Christina Feller | May 31st, 2016

iStock_000085123163_LargeWhat is Mirena®?

Mirena® is an intrauterine system manufactured by Bayer Pharmaceuticals which releases the hormone levonorgestrel directly into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. Although the manufacturer of Mirena has admitted it is unsure exactly how the product works, they believe it may thin the uterine lining and thicken cervical mucus, reducing sperm survival and preventing pregnancy.

What is the problem?

Levonorgestrel has been linked to a condition called pseudotumor cerebri (PTC), also known as idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH). This condition develops when a person’s cerebrospinal fluid builds up in the skull causing increased pressure on the optic nerve. Complications include migraines, papilledema, optic nerve damage, blurred vision, double vision, vision loss, or blindness and may be temporary, permanent, or recur throughout the patient’s lifetime. A diagnosis typically will involve a MRI or CT scan to rule out other causes such as a tumor or blood clot along with a lumbar puncture or spinal tap to evaluate the fluid in the skull.

What did they know?

Birth controls like Norplant® and Jadelle®, which also contain levonorgestrel, have warned about the risk of developing idiopathic intracranial hypertension or pseudotumor cerebri (IIH/PTC) as far back as 1993. In 1995, the New England Journal of Medicine noted that levonorgestrel may have contributed to several reported instances of IIH/PTC.  By the mid-1990s, Norplant faced tens of thousands of lawsuits, some claiming the drug caused IIH/PTC. In 1996, the FDA received a citizens petition requesting Norplant be removed from the market because of a number of adverse events including IIH/PTC. Despite all of these red flags linking levonorgestrel to this serious medical condition, the FDA and Bayer turned a blind eye. Mirena was approved by the FDA and then put on the market in 2000 without any mention of pseudotumor cerebri or idiopathic intracranial hypertension in its label.

How can I take action?

At Ferrer, Poirot, Wansbrough, Feller, Daniel, Abney & Linville, we are committed to helping victims of harmful products and devices. We believe big corporations should be held accountable when they turn a blind eye and put harmful products on the market without warning of potential serious side effects. If you or a loved one suffered from Mirena side effects and are interested in a Mirena lawsuit, please call our office at 1-800-521-4492 to speak with our experienced staff who can connect you to a Mirena attorney.

Mirena® is a registered trademark of the Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and is used here only to identify the product in question.

Ban Forced Arbitration

by John Kirtley, III | April 26th, 2016

Forced arbitration clauses buried in the fine print of financial contracts deny all of us our day in court and deprive us of the right to hold corporations accountable for breaking the law. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 authorizes the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to study the use of forced arbitration clauses in consumer financial products or services contracts. It also allows them to ban the practice if it finds it is in the best interest of consumers to do so.

In December 2013, the CFPB released the preliminary results of that study. It found that forced arbitration clauses in consumer financial services contracts are used in many consumer transactions and impact tens of millions of Americans. For example, 99% of payday loan agreements in California and Texas include arbitration clauses in their agreements, and 92% of prepaid card agreements are subject to arbitration clauses.

The study also confirmed that forced arbitration provides relief to almost no consumers harmed by illegal or abusive practices in the financial services industry.

Another study released by the CFPB in March 2015 confirms the negative impact of forced arbitration for consumers while underscoring the benefits of class actions which deliver relief to millions of consumers with small dollar claims.

The CFPB study found:

  • A majority of consumers are unaware of whether their financial contracts include forced arbitration clauses. Fewer than 7% of consumers covered by arbitration clauses realized that the clauses restricted their ability to sue in court.
  • Arbitrators overwhelmingly side with companies rather than consumers in forced arbitration
  • Consumers recovered little, if any, financial relief in forced arbitration
  • Arbitration is rigged against consumers; i.e., the American Arbitration Association (AAA) is the sole arbitrator for 84.5% of forced arbitration-subject mobile wireless subscribers and 100% of arbitration-subject prepaid cards.

So, if you or a loved one showed up to play a softball game, and the other team paid the umpires, do you think you would get a fair game? Obviously not. Arbitration is bad for consumers and should not be forced upon them as the price for doing business with anyone.

Apple vs. U.S. Government

by John Kirtley, III | April 21st, 2016

The fphone-privacyight continues between Apple and the F.B.I. regarding access to an iPhone utilized by one of the shooters in the recent San Bernardino terrorist attack that killed 14 Americans. In typical fashion, media reporting and social network commentary resembles more hysteria than facts. Many people quickly formed opinions based upon ideological or political affiliation, despite the complex issues involved.

Law enforcement desires to, and should, investigate the full breadth of the conspiracy by obtaining information stored on the phone. The suspect’s phone’s password protection settings were that after 10 incorrect log-in attempts, the data and contents of the phone would be automatically erased. Consequently, law enforcement seeks assistance from Apple to turn off the feature in question on this one occasion. Privacy advocates equate this to the creation of permanent backdoor, and overstate the matter, to help garner public support—although, the government’s request can implicate privacy concerns related to the data.

The media fails to mention that the phone in question was a work phone issued to the suspect by San Bernardino County. San Bernardino County has consented to a search of the phone. Apple declined law enforcement’s request to assist. A federal judge has ordered Apple to assist. Yet again, Apple declined to help and is currently refusing to comply with a lawful court order. Apple cites privacy concerns as the reason for failing to cooperate.

Even if one takes the position that someone has privacy rights in their work phone, does that right trump national security interests related to identifying a terrorist sleeper cell within our borders? Apple is in the business of selling its brand, and privacy sells big, particularly in markets like China—as Apple recently admitted.
Ironically, Apple (and its current supporters Google and Facebook) have an insatiable appetite for consumer data that they regularly retrieve through email, messaging, web browsers, search, and mapping apps. This data is their life blood. However, when the government wants data from them they balk.

There’s likely not a “one size fits all” response to situations like this, but starting with complete knowledge of the facts, and the motivations of the interested parties, represents a critical first step. Obviously, technological advances presents us with contemporary complex questions to which no easy answers exist. Government power certainly needs to be checked and monitored. However, large corporations need to be good corporate citizens—not just take positions that add to their bottom line or provide effective marketing material.

U.S. Supreme Court Nomination Process Must Move Forward

by John Kirtley, III | April 14th, 2016

Supreme Court BuildingTo fill the vacancy left by the death of Antonin Scalia, as required by the U.S. Constitution, President Obama has nominated Merrick Garland, a judicial moderate, who currently serves as chief judge of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, to the United States Supreme Court. There is no question he is qualified to serve on the nation’s highest court. However, the Supreme Court’s ideological balance is up for grabs, and Garland’s nomination is the current obstructionist obsession with the Republican-controlled United States Senate.

The Constitution requires the Senate to give the President “advice and consent” (confirmation) for each nominee. The Senate’s role in this process is crucial for restoring a fully-functional Supreme Court. Currently, the Court has eight members which, in the event of a tie vote, would not establish any national precedent in any split decisions. This is only April. The current term of the Court ends June 30. A new term, of the Court, will not begin until Oct. 3, 2016, with many important cases to be decided in each term, through the end of Obama’s administration, which ends Jan. 20, 2017. Nevertheless, Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell has refused to consider the President’s nomination, much less even meet with him – as is Senate tradition.

As former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said, “I probably would’ve handled it differently,” Lott told CNN senior political commentator David Axelrod on “The Axe Files” podcast, produced by CNN and the University of Chicago Institute of Politics. “My attitude, particularly on the Supreme Court, was that elections do have consequences, sometimes bad, and I tried to lean towards being supportive of the President’s nominees, Democrat or Republican.”

Elections DO have consequences. The Constitution has no silly “election year exception,” for the Senate to refuse to consider the President’s nomination. The President has done his job. The U.S. Senate must do theirs.