Bayer is a company known worldwide for its cleaning and agricultural products, medical devices, over-the-counter medications and prescription drugs. Bayer may be best known for making aspirin, but in recent years, the company has also become notorious for the ever-increasing number of court cases filed against it. Consumers who have had negative side effects after using Bayer products claimed in their legal proceedings that Bayer disregarded the safety of its customers and did not fully warn users of potential complications. Some of the most noteworthy lawsuits, bans, and product discontinuations are further explained below.
RoundUp is a weed killer that uses a powerful active ingredient known as glyphosate. This herbicide is known to many consumers as a Monsanto product, but the agricultural giant was bought by Bayer in 2018 to expand its own agricultural department. RoundUp’s active ingredient is renowned by customers for its effectiveness, but the harsh chemical has been linked to cancer in humans. Because it is the most widely used weed killer in the world, this put many users at risk of lymphoma, leukemia and many other terminal cancers.
RoundUp customers with the highest risk of associated cancers such as lymphoma or leukemia are landscapers, groundskeepers and those who frequently manicure their own lawns. Shortly after Bayer had completed its acquisition of Monsanto, it paid almost $80 million to a school groundskeeper whose lymphoma was caused by frequent RoundUp use. There are more than 13,400 similar pending cases against Bayer, and a third federal trial has begun.
Mirena is a form of long-term birth control that releases hormones via intrauterine device (IUD). It is attractive to customers because it is marketed as a completely reversible contraceptive method that does not affect a user’s fertility after it has been removed. But like many other forms of contraception, Mirena can cause side effects, some of which are severe and dangerous. One study found that eight percent of IUD users experienced “complete expulsion” of the device within six months. Other patients have suffered device migration where the device punctures the uterine wall and migrates to other areas in the reproductive system and abdominal cavity. Both of these side effects cause severe pain for users, in addition to scar tissue formation and the often necessary surgical removal of the device.
Thousands of women felt that Bayer’s reported list of potential Mirena side effects did not fully warn them of the complications that could arise because of the device. More than 4,000 settlements have been reached regarding the complications that women experienced as a result of using Mirena.
Essure is a surgically implanted device that provides permanent contraception for women. It consists of a metal coil that is implanted in each fallopian tube, where scar tissue will then form and sterilize the female reproductive system. This method was considered effective because the scar tissue prevents sperm from reaching or fertilizing the woman’s eggs.
Essure was first approved by the FDA in 2002, and its original manufacturer Conceptus was acquired by Bayer in 2013. It was marketed as a safe, simple method of sterilization with an easy, quick recovery, but many consumers suffered a number of complications from the device. Several users experienced one or both coils migrating from the fallopian tubes. This resulted in scar tissue formation in other parts of the reproductive tract, as well as unwanted and unsafe ectopic pregnancies. Other women experienced internal bleeding and excess scar tissue buildup after the coils pierced the fallopian tubes. In several cases where the user’s health was at risk because of complications with the device, a complete hysterectomy was needed to remove the Essure coils in full and alleviate users’ pain.
These extreme side effects led to Essure being banned in Australia in 2017, and sales were discontinued everywhere else except the United States the same year. With media coverage pertaining to medical device dangers increasing alongside the release the Netflix documentary The Bleeding Edge, Bayer announced that Essure sales would be stopped in the United States by 2019. Despite Bayer’s discontinuation of Essure, there are still more than 18,000 Americans who are suing the manufacturer after experiencing dangerous side effects about which they were not warned.
Xarelto is a blood thinner that is produced and packaged by Bayer, but it is owned in name and formula by Johnson & Johnson. In the United States, it is the second most commonly used anticoagulant, and it is attractive to patients because it is one of the only blood thinners that is taken once a day (most are taken twice daily). One major drawback of Xarelto is that it did not have an FDA-approved antidote until 2018, while other common blood thinners could be reversed easily, such as Warfarin, which can be reversed with the ingestion of Vitamin K. It is pertinent for patients taking any prescribed blood thinners to have easy access to an antidote, because a poor reaction to the medication can cause uncontrolled bleeding or the inability for blood to clot.
Before the antidote was approved, if a Xarelto patient was injured while taking the medication, it could lead to internal bleeding and external bleeding that could not be stopped, essentially making the patients exhibit hemophiliac-like symptoms. Because so many Xarelto patients and their families felt that they were not adequately warned of this extreme potential danger, more than 25,000 legal proceedings were filed against Johnson & Johnson and Bayer, which resulted in a $775 million settlement in March 2019.
Bayer and its subsidiaries have knowingly marketed, distributed and sold countless harmful products, devices, and medications, according to legal professionals, consumer activists, and everyday consumers. Bayer has been involved in more than 45,000 cases regarding severe complications and side effects that have hurt or even caused the death of its consumers. Because consumers worldwide are likely to use some Bayer products, it is necessary for customers to be informed of the potentially life-threatening issues that can arise from using its products. No one should have to entrust their safety to a company whose negligence has cost customers their lives.