Bayer Pharmaceuticals is a company that nearly every American has come in contact with. The German corporation is best known as the manufacturer of aspirin, the ubiquitous over-the-counter pain relief medication. However, Bayer also makes many other products, medications, and devices for both human and animal uses. Last year, the company expanded its agricultural division with the purchase of Monsanto.
While a household name, some of Bayer’s recent practices and lack of transparency have landed the conglomerate in the news for less-than-ideal reasons. In its most recent quarterly report, the company noted that it is currently facing more than 40,000 lawsuits. A few of their most egregious product, medication and device lawsuits are detailed below.
Essure First approved by the FDA in 2002, Essure is designed to be a permanent contraception option for women. The device consists of two metal coils that are inserted into each of the patient’s fallopian tubes, where they form scar tissue that prevents conception. However, a large number of women who used the device reported complications and unexpected, severe side effects. These complications included expulsion, when one or both coils would come out of the fallopian tubes, and migration, when the coils would pierce the fallopian tubes or would move to another part of the reproductive system. While some users had positive experiences with Essure, these side effects were painful for many women, and led to internal bleeding, scar tissue formation outside the fallopian tubes and life-threatening ectopic pregnancies.
The device was banned in Australia in 2017, and sales were discontinued in every country except the U.S. the same year. Many women who used the device feel that Bayer did not adequately warn customers of the potential side effects of Essure, as it was marketed to them as a safe, non-invasive form of permanent contraception. Bayer is currently involved in more than 18,000 legal proceedings for Essure complications, and the device is no longer sold in the U.S. as of 2019.
Mirena Another form of birth control, Mirena is a T-shaped intrauterine device (IUD) that offers women hormone-releasing contraception for up to five years. Marketed to fit the hectic lifestyles of modern women, Mirena is attractive because after the device is inserted, ads claim that it can be ‘forgotten about’ for half a decade. Unfortunately, it could not be simply forgotten for many women. Nearly 8% of patients, or one in every 12 women, who used Mirena reported discomfort, pain and other unwanted side effects that were not advertised. The device was known for both perforation and migration, which occurred when the device would pierce the uterine wall and move to another part of the reproductive tract or abdominal cavity. In many cases this led to scar tissue formation and internal bleeding, and sometimes the device had to be surgically removed after it was found elsewhere in the body.
Complaints and medical complications plaguing Mirena users have led Bayer to more than 4,000 settlements. Furthermore, there have even been hundreds of claims from women that the device led to neurological disorders, although this correlation has yet to be proven.
Xarelto Xarelto is an anticoagulant that is distributed by Bayer, but was developed by Johnson & Johnson. It is attractive to customers because it is only taken once a day, whereas most other blood thinners must be taken twice a day. This medication becomes effective within two hours of ingestion, and remains in a patient’s system for up to 48 hours. The effects of traditional blood thinners, like Warfarin, can be reversed by taking Vitamin K, but this was not the case for Xarelto. Before May 2018, Bayer had no FDA-approved antidote for Xarelto, which led to medication-induced hemophilia in some users and even led to internal bleeding and death in extreme cases.
Damages from the medication have led to more than 20,000 lawsuits filed against Bayer and Johnson & Johnson. Xarelto patients and their families felt that Johnson & Johnson and Bayer did not adequately warn patients of any life-threatening side effects.
RoundUp When Bayer acquired Monsanto in 2018, the pharmaceutical conglomerate’s goal was to expand its agricultural department under the Monsanto name. With this expansion, however, came another product that harmed consumers. Monsanto’s weed killing agent RoundUp uses an active ingredient called glyphosate, which is classified as a probable human carcinogen and has been directly linked to terminal non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in many individuals. Victims and their families sued Bayer, citing that the company knowingly sold RoundUp when they were fully aware that contact with the product could cause cancer.
Recently, Bayer has issued statements indicating that the company would be willing to settle lawsuits filed after users of RoundUp were diagnosed with cancer – depending on the cost.
“If we can settle nuisances at some point where the defense costs in preparing cases are higher than potential settlement amounts, we will of course consider it from an economic standpoint,” Reuters reported CEO Werner Baumann as saying when asked if there was any scenario in which Bayer would consider settling.
“We will resolutely and with all means defend ourselves in this (glyphosate) litigation,” he added.
Bayer has sold many products, devices and medications that can allegedly harm consumers and even cause death. Due to the wide variety of Bayer’s products, it is nearly impossible to avoid contact with anything made by Bayer or its subsidiaries. It is necessary for consumers to have transparency from corporations regarding the safety of the products and medications that they need to live. Consumers can advocate for their own safety and the safety of their family members by researching any prescription medication they are recommended by a medical professional. Furthermore, they can ensure their health and safety by researching ingredients in cleaners and household products to avoid toxins and harmful chemicals.