Via America’s Lawyer: Major chemical companies 3M and DuPont have allowed PFAS chemicals to seep into everyday products and waterways. Attorney Madeline Pendley joins Mike Papantonio to explain the history of this dangerous carcinogen. Plus, The weight-loss aid Belviq was once the most popular drug on the market. Then came a recall due to hundreds of cases of brain, lung, and pancreatic cancer. Attorney Stephen Luongo joins Mike Papantonio to explain how the FDA did a regulatory U-turn after approving the dangerous drug back in 2012.


*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.

Mike Papantonio:             The EPA has known for years, that PFAS chemicals are hazardous to human health and the environment yet industrial giants 3M and DuPont managed to flood our drinking waterways with that product and that toxin. Joining me to talk about this is attorney Madeline Pendley, you know, Madeline, what strikes me is I look at this fellow right here, probably a 3M employee he’s in, he’s in the Tyvek suit, got gloves on. He’s got a mask on. He is set to where if this stuff gets on him, he can save himself.

Madeline Pendley:        Right.

Mike Papantonio:             You know what the ugly part of it is, this is the same stuff they’re putting in our drinking water.

Madeline Pendley:        Exactly. He’s decked out to protect himself. But when it comes to the rest of us, the firefighters that use this stuff, the people who get it in their drinking water, we’re not protected at all. And so to back up a little bit, that term PFAS that you mentioned that actually encompasses a class of thousands of different dangerous chemicals, as you know. So in particular, we’re going to be talking about C8 and those chemicals also very dangerous. Interestingly, despite being so dangerous, they were using a ton of different consumer products like Teflon. You’re familiar with that. Scotchgard and most recently, what’s called AFFF or firefighting foam, which is what we’re going to talk about today.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah. What we, what we found in the trial that I tried up in Ohio was that they had tons of experiments to show that it would cause cancer. It would cause birth defects. It would cause a whole issue, a whole line of health problems that they didn’t tell the public. Now here’s what’s important. It’s in your drinking water now.

Madeline Pendley:        Exactly.

Mike Papantonio:             More than likely if you’re in a big urban area, this is in your drinking water, there is no safe level. They say, oh, well, you know, there’s a, there is no safe level, right?

Madeline Pendley:        Right. So they have studies, both 3M and DuPont, going back to the 1950s saying that this stuff, one, builds up in your blood. You know, once it’s there, it stays there. They have studies in the 60s, classifying it as a toxin in their internal documents. Didn’t tell anybody that. In the 70s they learned it continues to build in your blood. In the 80s, they went so far as to remove their female employees from the factories because they learned that PFOS exposure could harm their unborn children and like you said, cause very serious birth defects. And even in the 90s, they learned that their employees were more at risk for cancer development and death than the general population. But they didn’t tell anybody.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah. Well now, DuPont, is the case that I tried in Ohio and the information they had in their files was something they kept secret.

Madeline Pendley:        Right.

Mike Papantonio:             You know, and, and now we’re just catching up. If you were to talk to 10 people and you were to say, what do you know about PFOS or PFAS? They don’t even know what you’re talking about.

Madeline Pendley:        Right.

Mike Papantonio:             So the biggest delivery system right now is through, as you point out, AFFF firefighting material, right?

Madeline Pendley:        Yes. And so the way that works, it’s, it’s what you think about they use to put out fires in aircraft fires usually very large, very hot oil based fires. Spray the foam on there, it deprives the flame of oxygen and it does work much more quickly than water would. And so 3M to kind of launch this product had to get a little bit creative, did two main things. One, they pitched this product to the air force at a very vulnerable time for our military branches. We had recently had several very tragic events where we lost service members due to flames who were not able to put out in time. In comes 3M with their miracle product. You know, the air force picks it up and they start using it all over the country, you know, contaminating water all over the country because they didn’t know this was dangerous. The other thing they did was they sold it to airports, just your everyday commercial airports and they actually helped create a regulation that required airports to purchase this type of foam. So they created a regulation that would ensure there’s a market for their product. Again, didn’t tell the airports how to properly clean this stuff up or what it could do to the people who are using it and that are exposed to it.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah. The ugly part about it is, and you know, we’re going to be at some point, well, look to understand it, all you have to do is watch the movie, “The Devil We Know.”

Madeline Pendley:        Right.

Mike Papantonio:             It’s on Netflix. It’ll tell you everything you want about it. There’s really nothing secretive about this right now. All of the facts are out there. They came out in the DuPont case that was, that we tried up in Ohio, but nevertheless, people don’t know about it. There’s another great movie, you know, it’s called, “Dark Waters,” but the Netflix movie, you can just go to Netflix and it’ll, “The Devil We Know” will tell you the whole story. So my point is, there are no secrets. I mean, everything we’re talking about is in the public domain right now.

Madeline Pendley:        Right.

Mike Papantonio:            We don’t, can’t talk about what’s not in the public domain, but there’s so much out there that people can look at and understand, but they have to, they have to educate themselves, don’t they, about have dangerous this is.

Madeline Pendley:        They do, and they have to learn what products this stuff is in. It’s not enough to know that just, you know, the term PFOS means it’s dangerous. What all does that encompass? What all products are exposed to that. A lot of people didn’t know that fast food packaging contains variations of PFOS. You know, the food is soaking in it, and then it goes into your body and you absorb it. And I don’t think people know that it’s in our drinking water due to things like firefighting foam.

Mike Papantonio:             You know, what’s remarkable, 3M put all this product on the market. You know what they’re selling now, they’re selling a home filter system for $6,000 that you can buy to get their stuff out of your drinking water so you can feel safe about your children taking showers and drinking this stuff everyday. They’re actually making money now by selling the solution, in about $6,000 you can add it to your home.

Madeline Pendley:        Right.

Mike Papantonio:             They want you to pay for it though.

Madeline Pendley:        For they problem that they caused, exactly.

Mike Papantonio:             Right. So I got, I guess where this lands right now is there’s, there’s litigation pending.

Madeline Pendley:        Right.

Mike Papantonio:             As litigation, as litigation progresses, when it’s over, the whole story will be told. It’s a startling story. It’s a, it’s a remarkable story, but at least “The Devil We Know” on Netflix begins to tell the story a little bit.

Madeline Pendley:        It does.

Mike Papantonio:             Thank you for joining me. Okay.

Madeline Pendley:        Thank you.

Mike Papantonio:             A popular weight loss drug sold under the brand name Belviq has been voluntarily recalled after a strong link between the drug and certain types of fatal cancers. And I have Steve Luongo here to talk to me about that, who’s handling this case, Steve, first of all, let me, let me clear something up. There is no such thing as a voluntary recall, you understand that.

Stephen Luongo:               Absolutely.

Mike Papantonio:             The company likes to say we voluntarily took it off the market. No, it’s the FDA said, either you take it off the market, are you going to be, have sanctions or whatever. Again, this is another story where the FDA failed to do their job, isn’t it? Take it from there. What is Belviq? What kind of injuries are we talking about?

Stephen Luongo:                Absolutely. So let’s start from the beginning. Belviq is a prescription weight loss drug and what it was designed to do is combat, combat obesity, type two diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure. And what it does is it attacks the serotonin levels in the user. So it manipulates and tricks your mind into thinking that you’re full without actually having to eat any food.

Mike Papantonio:             Well, I handled the cases early on. I tried the Fen-Phen cases. The Fen-Phen cases was a weight loss program that was going to be the new secret to losing weight. It killed hundreds of women. Again, it was another situation where the FDA had all the information they needed, failed to do their job. In this situation, Belviq was, the FDA said no, in 2012, right? They said.

Stephen Luongo:                2010.

Mike Papantonio:             2010, they said, no, you can’t sell the drug. It was, I think, five to nine on the committee that said that. They reviewed everything said, this, first of all, it doesn’t work. Second of all, it’s dangerous. And then after, so you have a political change. They come back Belviq comes back and says, hey, you know what, we want another shot and the FDA says, oh, sure. The one we turned down, the one we said no to, you can sell it now. Take it from there.

Stephen Luongo:                Right. And you’re exactly right. It’s the same product that was denied by the FDA in 2010 was passed and approved in 2012. So what changed? Nothing changed except the people approving it. And in fact, when they denied it in 2010, the issues were, does this drug even work and is it worth the cost benefit analysis? In which time they knew based off a New York Times article that these laboratory rats were developing cancer or tumors that potentially could be cancerous at that time. So they were aware of back in 2010 of the cancerous and the carcinogen nature of this drug, the lorcaserin.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah. And it doesn’t stop there. I mean, this is a drug where they found a history of people having suicidal thoughts, uncontrolled bleeding, men were growing breasts from it. You had blood, you had blood sugar problems that were putting people in, in, in, in sometimes comas. This is, this, but you had cancer. And the, the FDA knew all of that and they come in the second time and they start taking the word of the company. What is the company, Eisai?

Stephen Luongo:                The, the company is Eisai. It was originally developed by Arena Pharmaceuticals, a San Diego based company. In 2017, it was sold to Japanese pharmaceutical Eisai in which they really pumped up the advertising, got the sales increased to where eventually Belviq, Belviq was the number one drug in the market at that time.

Mike Papantonio:             Okay. So as this, you know, I’d like to say that this is just a one-off kind of situation, but we’re seeing it more and more, Steve. You handle these cases. You understand that when you’re dealing with the FDA, you may as well not have any comfort in what the FDA does. Most people in this business say that if a drug is not on the market for more than 10 years, don’t touch it. What is your thought on that?

Stephen Luongo:                Well, that’s exactly right, because we’re dealing with the FDA and the way that they got the approval was saying, hey, go ahead and do this five-year study. We’re going to go ahead and approve you, but go ahead and do five years and see what the cardiovascular effects of this drug are. Lo and behold, now we know people are coming down with cancer, mostly pancreatic, colorectal and lung cancer, but there’s a variety of cancers that are being affected by the people who are taking this drug.

Mike Papantonio:             Totally unnecessary drug.

Stephen Luongo:                Absolutely.

Mike Papantonio:             This, this drug serves no purpose whatsoever. There are drugs out that, that can accomplish the same thing that don’t kill you, but Belviq is out there saying, oh, we’ve got this new drug. Look, if you’re taking the drug, if somebody’s out there taking the drug, what do they need to do? How do they protect themselves?

Stephen Luongo:                Right. Stop immediately, contact your pharma, your, your, stop. They need to stop immediately. They need to contact their doctor and see what the alternatives are. As far as doctors that are prescribing it, they should have been stopped prescribing it as it was taken off the market a year ago and to talk about the alternatives with their patients as well.

Mike Papantonio:             And get screened.

Stephen Luongo:                Exactly.

Mike Papantonio:             How about something as just go get screened. Find out what these cancers are. Go get screened for the cancer, especially if you’ve been taking it a long time. Steve, thank you for joining me, okay.

Stephen Luongo:                Yes sir.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.