Via America’s Lawyer: Hundreds of homes are evacuated in south Florida after a breach in the Piney Point phosphate plant reservoir threatened surrounding areas with a 20 foot wastewater tidal wave. Mike Papantonio & Farron Cousins discuss more. Then, attorney Tim O’Brien joins Mike Papantonio to discuss sweeping lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies like Johnson & Johnson over the bladder drug Elmiron, which has been found to cause vision and hair loss among other horrific side effects.

Click here to find out more about Elmiron lawsuits.


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

Mike Papantonio:             A wastewater containment facility in Florida is leaking millions of gallons of toxic sludge. It’s forcing the governor to declare a state of emergency. This is the most putrid story for so many reasons. A, it’s a real good look at the fact that our regulators in Florida, the DEP and the EPA allowed this to happen at all. But why? Because government all, regulators in Florida always side with the corporations. So they let this cat come down from New York. Okay. This guy comes down from New York and he purchases this land. This H, HRK Holdings. Here, this is some cat in New York. He owns a chain of Hooters.

He owns a chain of Frederick’s of Hollywood, William F Harley lll, William F Harley lll. They don’t make him bond anything. He comes down and says, I’m going to take control of this and keep it safe. Do they ask they ask him to put up a bond in case it goes bad? No. Do they ask him to do any kind of surety to make sure he’s doing this right? No. Why? Because our regulators suck and because of that, we’ve got thousands of people that are gonna be affected by this.

Farron Cousins:                  And, and they knew something like this was going to happen too. That’s the sick part of this. You know, for 20 years they’ve been storing this wastewater right there with the phosphogypsum, which is radioactive. So they’ve been storing it there for 20 years. They’ve had two previous leaks. I think one in ’05 maybe, one in ’11. So they knew, or maybe it was ’13, but anyway, they knew that this was shoddy work. They knew this was imminent. And then they sat on it for another 8 to 10 years waiting for the big catastrophe, which is what is awaiting Florida down there right now. They’re, they’re trying to patch it, trying to stop the leaks. And they can’t.

Mike Papantonio:             They can’t.

Farron Cousins:                  All they can do is pump it into the Tampa Bay and they’re going to kill that ecosystem in the process.

Mike Papantonio:             So the DEP is going on, oh, this isn’t radioactive. You don’t have to worry about any radioactive element. That is nonsense. We have people going down there as we speak to test this and what we’re going to find is we’re going to find that this is gypsum and phosphate. They’re, look, they’re pumping, they pumped 33, what was it, 33 million gallons a day.

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah.

Mike Papantonio:             33 million gallons of this into a pristine waterway, the Tampa Bay area waterway where all the fisheries, they need it to survive. It’s like they’re leaving town and throwing us a finger and saying, ah, we got away with that again.

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah, pretty much. And, and of course, like you said, the, the Florida citizens are going to be left on the hook for this. They’re going to have to figure out how to do this. They’re going to have to figure out how to rebuild these ecosystems, which if there is that uranium and that phosphogypsum, that may not even be something that’s possible within the next 30 to 40 years, if they’re pumping this much uranium into Tampa Bay. That, that is catastrophic.

Mike Papantonio:             Here, watch this. There will be no crim, I, you know, I used to prosecute. I could come up with a dozen criminal charges against this Mr. Haley with HRK, Harley. I could come up with a dozen criminal charges. Mr. William F Harley lll, living in New York right now. There’s criminal elements to this and if our prosecutors don’t do anything about it, by God, we’re going to, this story is going to get bigger and bigger.

Mike Papantonio:             A bladder drug called Elmiron is causing serious and irreversible eye problems in patients. And I’m joined by attorney Tim O’Brien, who is leading the fight against this whole problem. Thank you for doing that. Tim, first of all, tell us who makes Elmiron and what is it used for?

Tim O’Brien:                          So the drug is made now by Janssen, which is a subsidiary of Johnson and Johnson. And it’s used for a condition called cystitis in the bladder, it’s a painful bladder syndrome. So it’s primarily given to women, not exclusively, but primarily given to perimenopausal women.

Mike Papantonio:             Okay. And so the problems that we’re seeing that you’re identifying, and again, I want, I, I want to point this out, but for your efforts, this story may never be told. And so I hope viewers will listen very carefully. What did you find?

Tim O’Brien:                          Well, I had a client of mine, a former client of mine call me. She had, I had represented her in Georgia and she said, I’ve got a doctor up in Emory who says I’m going blind because of this drug Elmiron, will you take the case? And nothing had been discussed about it in the literature at that point in time. And so I took it in, got her records together and it turns out she was part of a major study that this researcher at Emory was putting together and was revealing that, yes, hey, once you get over about six months or nine months of taking this drug, it actually damages your retina. It damages, your macula. And that’s the part of the eye, Pap, that when you’re looking out, we’ve got lenses and then in the back of the eye, we’ve got things that make sense of all the light that’s coming in. And so that part of the retina that focuses everything, that makes it all make sense to the brain, that’s called the macula and it was destroying the macula. It’s what happened to her and it’s what’s happened to thousands of other women.

Mike Papantonio:             Okay. And so, so this is, this is something that if this is a typical kind of case that you and I have probably handled so many of these cases, pharmaceutical, probably the clinicals gave some indication that there was a problem here.

Tim O’Brien:                          Yeah. The clinicals gave not only an indication of a problem, we’re talking about the clinical trials that the FDA was reviewing, but not only was there a problem, but there was no benefit. The, these clinical trials that the sponsor of the drug put the patients through, two times the FDA say, FDA looked at these clinical trials and said, there’s no benefit. There’s no benefit at all. And so they let them backdoor some clinical use of it in some actual, not clinical trial evidence, but in the same time, all of these reports were starting to coming in about all kinds of adverse events, many of which were problems with the eyes.

Mike Papantonio:             The FDA, again, it’s the most dysfunctional government agency, maybe SEC FDA EPA, put them in a bag. None of them do their job. Is that the case here with the FDA?

Tim O’Brien:                          Yeah. It’s like, remember the movie, Bonfire of the Vanities, a Tom Wolfe novel.

Mike Papantonio:             Sure.

Tim O’Brien:                          When it said a grand jury can indict a ham sandwich. Well, the same is true of the FDA. I think the FDA would improve for marketing in the United States as a drug, a ham sandwich. If they approve this without any evidence of efficacy, their own reviewers said, this is not an approvable drug and the FDA approved it anyway.

Mike Papantonio:             Well, people get this notion, don’t they, Tim that the FDA is doing their own testing. That if the FDA approves it, it’s going to be okay. That’s so far from the truth. Isn’t it?

Tim O’Brien:                          It is so far from the truth, you look at what has happened now, as hundreds of thousands of patients have been exposed to this and in the clinical trials, they only studied about 125 patients who were actually taking the drug for a very short period of time. So really what we’re seeing and it’s true in other cases too, is unfortunately the American public is the clinical study patients, which means the American public are the Guinea pigs. And now we’re seeing what are the effects of this, of taking the drug and it’s not good.

Mike Papantonio:             Okay. So you have shown, I followed your career long time, you have shown time after time that the only solution is to take them to court. And you’ve, you’ve done that successfully. You’ve gotten black box, black boxes put on products. You’ve had products taken off the market. You’ve, you’ve made stories public that nobody else would know. How do you, where does this fit into that?

Tim O’Brien:                          Well, glad to report after we first started filing our cases, Janssen put, did put a black box on the warning, warning about these vision loss changes. But it’s not enough because if you think about the eyeball, it’s kind of like the mouth. So much is happening with what you have to rely upon your eyeball for. So when you get this condition, this maculopathy in the back of your eye, I want you to think about looking at your wife or looking at your car or looking at your coworkers normally. And then you look at it through a sheet of cellophane. That’s the beginning of the process. And then you look at it through a sheet of wax paper, that’s the progression of the process.

Mike Papantonio:             Wow.

Tim O’Brien:                          And then you try and look at it through a black piece of construction paper. And that’s what’s happening with many of these women who’ve taken this drug is they’re having progressive vision loss and even getting off the drug doesn’t stop it.

Mike Papantonio:             Wow. Irreversible, huh?

Tim O’Brien:                          Irreversible.

Mike Papantonio:             Tim O’Brien, this is a new one for you. Do your, you know, I know you always do your job. I know you always get it done, but this is critically important. So many people have no clue, anything about this drug. Thank you for joining me. Okay.

Tim O’Brien:                          Thank you, Pap.

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.