Second Lawsuit Alleging Bayer’s Roundup Led to the Development of Cancer Begins

bottles of roundup weed killer

Sheila Fitzgerald /

Could a product in a weed killer contribute to the development of cancer? That is the question a jury will answer as Bayer faces accusations that glyphosate, the active ingredient in its top-selling weed killer Roundup, caused cancer in some individuals who have used the product.

There are numerous lawsuits against Bayer regarding allegations that glyphosate led to cancer in some individuals who used it. The latest trial, taking place in San Francisco, is the second such trial to make it to the jury. Edwin Hardeman, 70, has been using Roundup for more than 30 years. In 2015, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The trial, according to the Associated Press, is expected to last about a month.

A previous trial ruled against Bayer and Monsanto, the agribusiness giant Bayer merged with last year that developed the weed killer. In August, a jury awarded a plaintiff $289 million after determining Roundup caused his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the Associated Press reported. That award was cut by a judge to $78 million and Monsanto has appealed, the AP added.

Currently, there are hundreds of lawsuits against Bayer and Monsanto waiting to go forward over glyphosate concerns. And it’s possible there could be more after a recent report has claimed that traces of the chemical are showing up in organic beer and wine. According to a report from U.S. PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) traces of glyphosate were found in 19 of 20 popular beer and wine brands, including Sutter Home Merlot, Beringer Estates Moscato, Corona, Miller Lite and Budweiser. Kara Cook-Schultz, U.S. PIRG's toxics program director, told CBS News that the levels of glyphosate found in the beverages were below the level of what is expected to be harmful to people.

Bayer has called the PIRG report misleading, CBS said. A Bayer spokesperson said that using rules established by regulatory authorities, people could have to consume hundreds of gallons of these alcoholic drinks per day “every day for life to reach the US Environmental Protection Agency's glyphosate exposure limit for humans.”

The Hardeman trial is expected to be a bellwether trial regarding glyphosate and cancer connections, the AP said.

This is certainly not the first time that Bayer or other drugmakers have faced lawsuits regarding products that could be linked to cancer, or had disastrous side effects in patients. Life sciences giant Johnson & Johnson is facing about 10,000 lawsuits over allegations its iconic talc-based products sometimes contained carcinogenic asbestos that contributed to the development of cancer in users. Several juries have sided with plaintiffs against Johnson & Johnson and awarded millions of dollars in damages to those plaintiffs. In May 2018, a plaintiff was awarded more than $21 million in damages after the jury determined that asbestos in the talc was linked to her development of mesothelioma. In July 2018, a jury awarded almost $4.7 billion in damages to 22 women and their families after it was determined that talc contributed to the development of ovarian cancer in the plaintiffs. Six of the plaintiffs died from the disease.

Janssen Pharmaceutical, a division of J&J, and Bayer have also been subjected to lawsuits over their blockbuster blood thinner Xarelto. Lawsuits filed against the two companies claim the companies failed to warn patients and physicians of increased risks of fatal internal bleeding when using the drug. In December 2017, a judge ordered the two companies to pay $28 million to Lynn Hartman and her husband. Lynn Hartman had been taking the drug to treat atrial fibrillation. About a year after being on the medication, she began to experience significant internal bleeding. Once she was taken off the medication, she recovered. Lawsuits similar to the one won by the Hartman family are still awaiting a trial. That award was overturned in 2018.

Other drugs that have been the subject of lawsuits include

  • Bayer’s birth control treatment Mirena. In 2016, a New York federal judge has ruled in favor of Bayer AG against nearly 1,300 lawsuits filed by women who say they suffered internal injuries from the company's Mirena intra-uterine contraceptive device.
  • Roche’s acne drug Accutane. In 2012, Roche was ordered to pay $18 million to two former Accutane users who took Accutane for treatment of their acne in the 1990s and developed ulcerative colitis--a debilitating, permanent disease--as a result. In 2016, Roche won an appeal to that ruling. Accutane has been pulled from the market.
  • Merck’s shingles vaccine Zostavax. Lawsuits filed against Merck claim that the company’s blockbuster shingles vaccine causes viral injuries such as loss of eyesight, complete and permanent hearing loss and the development of shingles.

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