Dustin Siggins

Former Olympic hopeful calls Merck’s NuvaRing settlement offer ‘laughable’

Dustin Siggins
Dustin Siggins

ROXBURY, CT, March 13, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Two years ago, Megan Henry was one of the nation's top athletes. A skeleton racer, she was training for the 2014 Olympics, with dreams of gold medals going through her mind.

Only months later, those dreams were dashed after Henry began using the contraceptive NuVaRing. She told local news that "within 10 days of taking it, I had a hard time breathing." She eventually went to several doctors and a hospital, where she found out she had “multiple blood clots in both lungs.” Henry says she missed a year of training, and would be at high risk should she become pregnant. 

Made by Merck Pharmaceuticals company Organon USA – acquired in 2009 after a merger with Schering-Plough Corp. – NuVaRing works through insertion into the vagina, and is supposed to remain inserted for three weeks at a time. According to the NuvaRing website (graphic content warning), side effects include blood clots, stroke, or heart attack. The website says that “the most common side effects reported by NuvaRing users are: vaginal infections and irritation, vaginal secretion, headache, weight gain, and nausea.”

After her 2012 experience, Henry joined nearly 4,000 other people in a class-action lawsuit against Merck, including plaintiffs who had lost family as a result of NuVaRing use. Last month, all plaintiffs were offered a $100 million national settlement. 

Henry told LifeSiteNews that amount isn't good enough. “Plaintiffs can either opt in or not, but the settlement is a laughable offer to rectify damages, considering Merck brings in over $4 billion in profit. A settlement offer of $100 million across nearly 4 thousand people is hardly compensation.” 

“Just for comparison's sake, other birth controls such as Yaz paid out over a billion dollars in settlements,” says Henry. She also pointed to how “95 percent of the victims have to accept the settlement. If 95 percent do not accept, there is no settlement.” Merck spokesperson Lainie Keller verified this to LifeSiteNews, noting that “if at least 95 percent of eligible participants as specified in the settlement agreement do not opt into the Settlement, Organon (Merck) is not obligated to proceed with the Settlement or fund the Settlement.” 

In 2013, Merck competitor Bayer AG agreed to a settlement worth more than $1.6 billion over accusations its Yaz and Yasmin contraceptive pills caused blood clotting. 

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According to Merck's settlement website, NuVaRing was created in 2001 and put on the market the following year. The class-action lawsuit was launched in August 2008, after multiple lawsuits were put into one larger effort. 

It appears that the full $100 million will not be seen by plaintiffs. The lead negotiatior for the plaintiffs, St. Louis attorney Roger Denton, said in a written statement that while he thinks the settlement is “an outstanding result and in the best interests of all the women who have suffered an injury associated with the use of NuvaRing,” between $30 million and $40 million will be spent on lawyer fees and expenses. 

“It will be hard [to accept the settlement],” said Henry. “A lot of families who lost daughters are just heartbroken. They feel they cannot morally accept the compensation, and other people just feel they can not accept knowing that Merck is essentially getting away with murder.”

“But there is not likely to be any opportunity to fight this in the future,” she admitted. “It is a very tangled web. You either accept, knowing that Merck is able to keep this product on the market with no repercussions, or you don't accept, and they still win. They win either way.”

The “opt-in” deadline for the settlement was March 10, but Merck's settlement website says that “several parties have requested brief extensions” that “have been granted.”

Henry told LifeSiteNews that “Merck should have been more honest with the dangers of NuvaRing, specifically by providing warning that represented the increased risk compared to other second and third generation birth controls.” 

“NuvaRing has a doubling of the risks for blood clotting incidents compared to other second and third generation contraceptives,” says Henry. She claims Merck, via Organon, knows this fact, but “continues to market the product in such a way that there is no increased risk," which she says "is not fair to the consumer.” 

Keller flatly denied Henry's claim, saying that “Merck has always acted responsibly with the marketing of NuVaRing, as we have with all of our medicines and vaccines.” 

“All combined hormonal contraceptives, including NuVaRing and combined oral contraceptives, are associated with an increased risk of [VTE],” said Keller. A VTE is a “venous thromboembolic event,” which Keller says includes “deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism.”

She cited a company study and a U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) study she says “found that the risk of blood clots for new users of NuVaRing is similar to the risk for new users of” combined oral contraceptives.

She also said “all [combined hormonal contraceptives], including NuVaRing, have a Boxed Warning on the increased risk of serious cardiovascular events.” She pointed to how “the FDA-approved patient information and the physician package labeling for NuVaRing” have provided such information “since the product was approved in 2001.” Keller says updates were made in October 2013 to account for how NuVaRing's new users are at “similar ... risk [of blood clots]” as “new users of combined oral contraceptives.”

In a previous e-mail correspondence, Merck spokesperson Keller did tell LifeSiteNews that out of 10,000 women who might take NuVaRing and are not on “combined hormonal contraceptives” (CHC), a year later “1 to 5 of these women will develop a VTE.”

She also told LifeSiteNews that “if 10,000 women who use a CHC” do so in addition to using NuVaRing, “3 to 12 women will develop a VTE.” Women at highest risk are those “who are postpartum,” meaning 12 weeks past delivery. Of 10,000 women, “40 to 65 will develop a VTE” in one year.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), generations of contraceptives are separated by hormonal types and dosages, as well as time of release. WHO says “pills with first-generation progestogens are more likely to produce unacceptable side-effects,” and were released over 40 years ago. Second-generation contraceptives were put on the market in the 1970s, and third-generation in the 1980s. WHO says second-generation contraceptives are more expensive, but “are similar in terms of effectiveness and of side-effects.”

Henry believes “the FDA should make [Merck] beef up their warning label, so women will think twice about using NuVaRing.” She also says “doctors are unaware of [NuVaRing's] dangers, so it is frightening to think what the consequences may be for patients if the doctor does not seem to have any worry about the risks.”

The Merck settlement offer comes at a time of increased public awareness about the dangers of contraception, including a documentary from TV star Ricki Lake about hormonal contraceptives and a 10,000-word essay in Vanity Fair about the NuVaRing lawsuit.

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Newsbusters Staff

,

Disney ABC embraces X-rated anti-Christian bigot Dan Savage in new prime time show

Newsbusters Staff
By

March 30, 2015 (NewsBusters.org) -- Media Research Center (MRC) and Family Research Council (FRC) are launching a joint national campaign to educate the public about a Disney ABC sitcom pilot based on the life of bigoted activist Dan Savage. MRC and FRC contacted Ben Sherwood, president of Disney/ABC Television Group, more than two weeks ago urging him to put a stop to this atrocity but received no response. [Read the full letter]

A perusal of Dan Savage’s work reveals a career built on advocating violence — even murder — and spewing hatred against people of faith. Savage has spared no one with whom he disagrees from his vitriolic hate speech. Despite his extremism, vulgarity, and unabashed encouragement of dangerous sexual practices, Disney ABC is moving forward with this show, disgustingly titled “Family of the Year.”

Media Research Center President Brent Bozell reacts:

“Disney ABC’s decision to effectively advance Dan Savage’s calls for violence against conservatives and his extremist attacks against people of faith, particularly evangelicals and Catholics, is appalling and outrageous. If hate speech were a crime, this man would be charged with a felony. Disney ABC giving Dan Savage a platform for his anti-religious bigotry is mind-boggling and their silence is deafening.

“By creating a pilot based on the life of this hatemonger and bringing him on as a producer, Disney ABC is sending a signal that they endorse Dan Savage’s wish that a man be murdered. He has stated, ‘Carl Romanelli should be dragged behind a pickup truck until there’s nothing left but the rope.’ ABC knows this. We told them explicitly.

“If the production of ‘Family of the Year’ is allowed to continue, not just Christians but all people of goodwill can only surmise that the company Walt Disney created is endorsing violence.”

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins reacts:

“Does ABC really want to produce a pilot show based on a vile bully like Dan Savage?  Do Dan Savage’s over-the top-obscenity, intimidation of teenagers and even violent rhetoric reflect the values of Disney?  Partnering with Dan Savage and endorsing his x-rated message will be abandoning the wholesome values that have attracted millions of families to Walt Disney.”

Dan Savage has made numerous comments about conservatives, evangelicals, and Catholics that offend basic standards of decency. They include:

  • Proclaiming that he sometimes thinks about “f****ing the shit out of” Senator Rick Santorum

  • Calling for Christians at a high school conference to “ignore the bull**** in the Bible”

  • Saying that “the only thing that stands between my d*** and Brad Pitt’s mouth is a piece of paper” when expressing his feelings on Pope Benedict’s opposition to gay marriage

  • Promoting marital infidelity

  • Saying “Carl Romanelli should be dragged behind a pickup truck until there’s nothing left but the rope.”

  • Telling Bill Maher that he wished Republicans “were all f***ing dead”

  • Telling Dr. Ben Carson to “suck my d***. Name the time and place and I’ll bring my d*** and a camera crew and you can s*** me off and win the argument.”

Reprinted with permission from Newsbusters

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Jacqueline Harvey

Ending the end-of-life impasse: Texas is poised to ban doctor-imposed death by starvation

Jacqueline Harvey
By Jacqueline Harvey

AUSTIN, Texas, March 30, 2015 (TexasInsider.org)  After five consecutive sessions of bitter battles over end-of-life bills, the Texas Legislature is finally poised to pass the first reform to the Texas Advance Directives Act (TADA) in 12 years. An issue that created uncanny adversaries out of natural allies, and equally odd bedfellows, has finally found common ground in H.B. 3074 by State Rep. Drew Springer.  

H.B. 3074 simply prohibits doctor-imposed euthanasia by starvation and dehydration.

Since H.B. 3074 includes only those provisions and language that all major organizations are on record as having deemed acceptable in previous legislative sessions, there is finally hope of ending the end-of-life impasse in the Texas Capitol.

Many would be surprised to learn that Texas law allows physicians to forcibly remove a feeding tube against the will of the patient and their family. In fact, there is a greater legal penalty for failing to feed or water an animal than for a hospital to deny a human being food and water through a tube.

This is because there is no penalty whatsoever for a healthcare provider who wishes to deny artificially-administered nutrition and hydration (AANH). According to Texas Health and Safety Code, “every living dumb creature” is legally entitled access to suitable food and water.

Denying an animal food and water, like in this January case in San Antonio, is punishable by civil fines up to $10,000 and criminal penalties up to two years in jail per offense. Yet Texas law allows health care providers to forcibly deny food and water from human beings – what they would not be able to legally do to their housecat. And healthcare providers are immune from civil and criminal penalties for denial of food and water to human beings as long as they follow the current statutory process which is sorely lacking in safeguards.

Therefore, while it is surprising that Texas has the only state law that explicitly mentions food and water delivered artificially for the purpose of completely permitting its forced denial (the other six states mention AANH explicitly for the opposite purpose, to limit or prohibit its refusal), it is not at all surprising that the issue of protecting a patient’s right to food and water is perhaps the one point of consensus across all major stakeholders.

H.B. 3074 is the first TADA reform bill to include only this provision that is agreed upon across all major players in previous legislative sessions.

There are irreconcilable ideological differences between two major right-to-life organizations that should supposedly be like-minded: Texas Alliance for Life and Texas Right to Life. Each faction (along with their respective allies) have previously sponsored broad and ambitious bills to either preserve but reform the current law (Texas Alliance for Life’s position) or overturn it altogether as Texas Right to Life aims to do.

Prior to H.B. 3074, bills filed by major advocacy organizations have often included AANH, but also a host of other provisions that were so contentious and unacceptable to other organizations that each bill ultimately died, and this mutually-agreed-upon and vital reform always died along with it.

2011 & 2013 Legislative Sessions present prime example

This 2011 media report shows the clear consensus on need for legislation to simply address the need to protect patients’ rights to food and water:

“Hughes [bill sponsor for Texas Right to Life] has widespread support for one of his bill’s goals: making food and water a necessary part of treatment and not something that can be discontinued, unless providing it would harm the patient.”

Nonetheless, in 2013, both organizations and their allies filed complicated, contentious opposing bills, both of which would have protected a patient’s right to food and water but each bill also included provisions the rival group saw as contrary to their goals. Both bills were ultimately defeated and neither group was able to achieve protections for patients at risk of forced starvation and dehydration – a mutual goal that could have been met through a third, narrow bill like H.B. 3074.

H.B. 3074 finally focuses on what unites the organizations involved rather than what divides them, since these differences have resulted in a 12 year standoff with no progress whatsoever.

H.B. 3074 is progress that is pre-negotiated and pre-approved.

It is not a fertile springboard for negotiations on an area of mutual agreement. Rather it is the culmination of years of previous negotiations on bills that all came too late, either due to the complexnature of rival bills, the controversy involved, or even both.

On the contrary, H.B. 3074 is not just simply an area of agreement; moreover, it is has already been negotiated. It should not be stymied by disagreements on language, since Texas Alliance for Life and Texas Right to Life (along with their allies) were able to agree on language in 2007 with C.S.S.B. 439. C.S.S.B. 439 reads that, unlike the status quo that places no legal conditions on when food and water may be withdrawn, it would be permitted for those in a terminal condition if,

“reasonable medical evidence indicates the provision of artificial nutrition and hydration may hasten the patient’s death or seriously exacerbate other major medical problems and the risk of serious medical pain or discomfort that cannot be alleviated based on reasonable medical judgment outweighs the benefit of continued artificial nutrition and hydration.”

This language is strikingly similar to H.B. 3074 which states, “except that artificially administered nutrition and hydration must be provided unless, based on reasonable medical judgment, providingartificially administered nutrition and hydration would:

  1. Hasten the patient’s death;
  2. Seriously exacerbate other major medical problems not outweighed by the benefit of the provision of the treatment;
  3. Result in substantial irremediable physical pain, suffering, or discomfort not outweighed by the benefit of the provision of the treatment;
  4. Be medically ineffective; or
  5. Be contrary to the patient’s clearly stated desire not to receive artificially administered nutrition or hydration.”

With minimal exceptions (the explicit mention of the word terminal, the issue of medical effectiveness and the patient’s right to refuse), the language is virtually identical, and in 2007 Texas Right to Life affirmed this language as clarifying that “ANH can only be withdrawn if the risk of providing ANH is greater than the benefit of continuing it.”

Texas Right to Life would support the language in H.B. 3074 that already has Texas Alliance for Life’s endorsement. Any reconciliation on the minor differences in language would therefore be minimal and could be made by either side, but ultimately, both sides and their allies would gain a huge victory – the first victory in 12 years on this vital issue.

It seems that the Texas Advance Directive Act, even among its sympathizers, has something for everyone to oppose.

The passage of H.B. 3074 and the legal restoration of rights to feeding tubes for Texas patients will not begin to satisfy critics of the Texas Advance Directives Act who desire much greater changes to the law and will assuredly continue to pursue them. H.B. 3074 in no way marks the end for healthcare reform, but perhaps a shift from the belief that anything short of sweeping changes is an endorsement of the status quo.

Rather, we can look at H.B. 3074 as breaking a barrier and indicating larger changes are possible.

And if nothing else, by passing H.B. 3074 introduced by State Rep. Drew Springer, we afford human beings in Texas the same legal access to food and water that we give to our horses. What is cruel to do to an animal remains legal to do to humans in Texas if organizations continue to insist on the whole of their agenda rather than agreeing to smaller bills like H.B. 3074.

The question is, can twelve years of bad blood and bickering be set aside for even this most noble of causes?

Reprinted from TexasInsider.org with the author's permission. 

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Only 3 Days Left!

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By John-Henry Westen

I can’t believe how quickly our annual Spring campaign has flown by. Now,with only 3 days remaining, we still have $96,000 left to raise to meet our absolute minimum goal.

That’s why I must challenge you to stop everything, right now, and make a donation of whatever amount you can afford to support the pro-life and pro-family investigative reporting of LifeSite!

I simply cannot overemphasize how important your donation, no matter how large or small, is to the continued existence of LifeSite. 

For 17 years, we have relied almost exclusively on the donations of our growing army of everyday readers like you: readers who are tired of the anti-life and anti-family bias of the mainstream media, and who are looking for a different kind of news agency.

We at LifeSite have always striven to be that news agency, and your ever-faithful support has encouraged us to forge ahead fearlessly in this mission to promote the Culture of Life through investigative news reporting.

You will find our donation page is incredibly simple and easy to use. Making your donation will take less than two minutes, and then you can get back to the pressing duties scheduled for your day. But those two minutes means the world to us!

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The Benham Brothers are only one of many, many pro-life and family leaders, media personalities, politicians, and activists around the world who rely on LifeSite on a daily basis!

Since our humble beginnings in the late 90s, LifeSite has gone from a small non-profit to an international force in the battle for life and family, read by over 5 million people every month

This is thanks only to the leaders, activists, and ordinary readers just like you who have recognized the importance truth plays in turning the tides of the Culture.

I want to thank the many readers who helped bring us within striking distance of our minimum goal with their donations over the weekend. 

But though we have made great strides in the past few days, we still need many more donations if we are going to have any hope of making it all the way by April 1st.

In these final, anxious days of our quarterly campaigns, I am always tempted to give in to fear, imagining what will happen if we don’t reach our goal.

In these moments, however, I instead turn to prayer, remembering that God in his providence has never yet let us down. With His help we have always been given precisely what we need to carry on!

You can also donate by phone or mail. We would love to hear from you!

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