Monday, November 12, 2007

Anxiety over Amaca asbestos case

Elizabeth Gosch and Ean Higgins

October 24, 2007 05:58am

LAWYERS for asbestos victims fear the new board of the James Hardie subsidiary Amaca is using a WA case to attempt to limit the number of successful lawsuits.

Denis Walter John Moss and his wife, Patricia Margaret Hannell, won a case against Amaca Pty Ltd, the James Hardie asbestos-producing subsidiary, in December last year and were awarded $5million.

Mr Moss, who died in June, was exposed to asbestos in the mid-1980s and 1990 as a result of occasional work on asbestos cement products in and around his home. He was diagnosed with mesothelioma in November 2005.

Amaca appealed against the West Australian Supreme Court decision earlier this year to award damages. The Court of Appeal overturned the trial judge's decision, stating Amaca did not breach its duty of care by failing to advertise the dangers of asbestos in the mass media.

Today in Perth, Mrs Hannell is seeking special leave to appeal against that decision in the High Court.

For decades, the key tenet of asbestos disease litigation, particularly in New South Wales, has been the finding by the courts that James Hardie had actual knowledge of the dangers of asbestos as early as 1938 but did not do enough toprotect workers and warn customers.

Slater and Gordon asbestos litigation specialist Tanya Segelov said it was possible the new Amaca board - appointed by James Hardie and the NSW Government - was testing the water in Western Australia, and if successful, might take a harder line in other jurisdictions.

If Amaca won such cases, it could reduce the ability of thousands of future victims to obtain compensation.


Union Efforts Called Racketeering

A lawsuit filed by Smithfield Foods charges the UFCW with extortion and a smear campaign in the union's efforts to convince the meat processor to agree to voluntarily accept the union without an employee vote. The union says the company has a long history of worker intimidation.

By Joseph A. Slobodzian

It's been used against mobsters, corrupt labor unions and anti-abortion protesters.

Now Smithfield Foods Inc., the Virginia-based meat-processing giant, has joined companies turning to federal racketeering law to try to block a campaign geared to unionization of its employees.

Smithfield Foods' lawyers filed the civil racketeering lawsuit Oct. 17 in federal court in Richmond, Va., the latest development in Smithfield's 14-year fight to prevent the United Food and Commercial Workers from unionizing 4,650 hourly workers at its largest pork-processing plant in Tar Heel, N.C.

The lawsuit contends that the union has resorted to "smear tactics," including trying to undermine the company's stock price by leaking false statements to Wall Street stock analysts.

The lawsuit seeks damages of at least $5.9 million for business losses Smithfield Foods says can be traced to the union campaign, as well as an injunction barring the unions from continuing their activities.

The lawsuit -- Smithfield Food Inc. vs. United Food and Commercial Workers International Union -- has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Robert E. Payne.

UFCW officials issued a statement maintaining that Smithfield has a long history of worker intimidation and calling the lawsuit an attempt by Smithfield to avoid a union vote.

UFCW officials noted that the suit was filed two days after negotiators for the company walked out of talks that were close to setting a mutually agreed-upon process for holding a unionization election at the Tar Heel processing plant.

"It is truly shameful that Smithfield is willing to spend millions of dollars on high-priced lawyers and frivolous lawsuits rather than committing the resources needed to provide basic safety and health improvements for Tar Heel workers," the union statement read.

According to the lawsuit, union members have demonstrated at food stores carrying Smithfield Foods products and at public appearances of celebrity chef Paula Deen to urge her to break her contract with Smithfield. Deen's Food Network cable television program, Paula's Home Cooking, features Smithfield products.

The lawsuit contends that in September 2005, the UFCW's Local 400 "decided to abandon all efforts to convince Smithfield employees of the benefits of union membership in favor of a new plan aimed not at the employees, but at Smithfield itself."

The lawsuit says UFCW decided to "extort" Smithfield's recognition of Local 400 "regardless of the degree of actual employee support for such representation, by injuring Smithfield economically until Smithfield either agreed to [union] demands or was run out of business."

In addition to the UFCW international union, in Washington, and Local 400, the Smithfield lawsuit names three groups and seven individuals it describes as "co-conspirators" with the union.

While the use of the federal racketeering statute in a union-organizing dispute may seem unusual, other companies have turned to the racketeering law, says Lynn C. Outwater, a labor relations lawyer and managing partner of the Pittsburgh office of the law firm Jackson Lewis.

Outwater cited the March ruling by U.S. District Judge Brian M. Cogan, of the Eastern District of New York, allowing a civil-racketeering conspiracy case to proceed against the Laborers' International Union.

The lawsuit by the Asbestos & Lead Removal Corp. contended that Laborers Local 78 and business manager Edison Severino carried out a campaign of violence and extortion designed to force the company to agree to a collective-bargaining agreement with Local 78.

The stakes are high in the protracted unionization struggle between Smithfield and the UFCW. With annual sales of $12 billion, Smithfield Foods calls itself the largest producer of hogs and the "leading processor and marketer of fresh pork and processed meats in the United States."

The Tar Heel plant is the largest meat processing plant of its type, according to Smithfield Farms, and slaughters, processes and packages more than 32,000 hogs per day.

The UFCW, on the other hand, represents 1.4 million workers and Landover, Md.-based Local 400 claims 40,000 members.

Local 400 began trying to organize Smithfield's Tar Heel workers in 1994, two years after the sprawling processing plant opened.


Asbestos Exposure only Known Link to Pleural Mesothelioma

Los Angeles, CA: Even though asbestos has been a dirty word for decades, and its use and prevalence has dramatically declined, the toxic substance is still making its presence felt, and is still at the root cause of serious health problems including pleural mesothelioma. In many cases it is claiming lives.

Walter Kot of Illinois is just the latest worker to file a lawsuit against a host of corporations he claims were negligent in their responsibility to inform workers about the presence of asbestos and ways in which, through hygiene and other practises, to mitigate its spread and prevalence.

Kot is upset that on numerous occasions he transported, unknowingly, asbestos fibres home.
Kot toiled as a labourer, sheet-metal worker, shipper, forester and firefighter at the behest of a number of companies from 1940 through 1980. This past July he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, and is litigating a total of 49 corporations for damages and compensation, which will ultimately help cover his medical bills.

In his lawsuit, filed last week in Madison County, Kot claims that the defendants should have known about the hazards of asbestos, and should have been more diligent in protecting its employees from needless exposure.

The suit also alleges that the various defendants could have used asbestos substitutes in their products, but did not.

It has also been alleged that some, or all of the defendants - which were not named publicly - may have destroyed documents and certain evidence, which would have proven Kot's claims.

As a result Kot is seeking at least $550,000 in compensatory damages for pain and suffering, and lost wages. He is also seeking punitive damages representing an undisclosed sum.

Meanwhile, a navy sailor last week was awarded $35.1 million in compensatory damages for exposure to asbestos while serving more than fifty years ago.

John R. 'Jack' Davis was diagnosed, like Kot, with pleural mesothelioma - a disease linked to asbestos exposure. In his suit, Davis claimed that he was exposed to asbestos-covered pipes and vales during his tour of duty in the U.S. Navy, as well as his private-sector career.

The Navy, along with a number of un-named defendants, will have to pool in order to pay the lion's share of the award, 85.8 per cent. The remaining 14.2 per cent of the award is the responsibility of Leslie Controls of Florida, and Warren Pumps of Massachusetts, which will each pay 7.1 per cent. The latter two companies were identified as having supplied asbestos-based material to the Navy.

The verdict, delivered by a jury in Los Angeles Superior Court after a five-week trial, came after deliberations of less than a day, and breaks down to $100,000 for economic damages, $25 million for Mr. Davis' pain and suffering, and a further $10 million for his wife.

Pleural mesothelioma is a deadly cancer that is linked exclusively to the inhalation of asbestos particles in the air. Various countries have implemented an outright ban of asbestos use, something the United States tried but failed, after the ban was overturned in the courts. As a result, there are still products which contain asbestos, such as brake linings.

The incubation period is a long one: the lag time between asbestos exposure and the onset of pleural mesothelioma can be anywhere from 20 to 50 years.

Little wonder that Mr. Kot and Mr. Davis, identified above, litigated so long after exposure. Both men were diagnosed in 2007, decades after the fact.

It is a reasonable expectation there will be many more to come.


Mesothelioma still needs more attention, research funding

Regarding the Oct. 15 front page article, ''Cancer death rates declining'': The death rate for mesothelioma, an extremely painful cancer in which membrane cells lining the chest or abdomen become malignant and proliferate uncontrollably, is on the rise.

Mesothelioma, caused by asbestos exposure, is almost always fatal. The life expectancy is 12.3 months with treatment and 9.2 months without. In fact, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, Pennsylvania ranks third in the nation in the mortality rate for mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma's latency is as long as 50 years, so millions of Americans who were exposed in the past five decades are at risk. And, given the current levels of asbestos exposure, it is inevitable that Americans will continue to be diagnosed for decades. The only hope is research to develop effective treatment.

Much has been accomplished with limited, private funding. It is time for the federal government to help find a cure. With facts like these, it is extremely distressing to know that less than 3 percent of cancer research dollars go to mesothelioma research. Wake up, Lehigh Valley; not all cancers or cancer death rates are on the decline.



A retired dockyard worker who developed scars on his lungs after working with asbestos has attacked a House of Lords decision to end compensation for people with the condition.Ken Peach, aged 75, of Beacon Park, said the Law Lords ruling on pleural plaques - scars on the lungs usually caused by exposure to asbestos - is "disgusting".

The condition can lead to fatal diseases including malignant mesothelioma and other forms of lung cancer.

The House of Lords yesterday ruled that pleural plaques was not a disease, ending future claims.

The landmark decision could affect hundreds of people in Plymouth, which is a 'hotspot' for asbestos-related conditions.


Mr Peach joined unions, solicitors and Plymouth MP Linda Gilroy in criticism of the ruling.

The pensioner, who received a Government payout in 2001 after developing pleural plaques, said: "It's disgusting and I feel very sorry this decision was made.

"I have a five per cent chance of the scars on my lungs developing into something more serious. It's a horrible feeling to know it's there; it worries me."

Mr Peach joined Devonport Dockyard in 1952 when he was just 20, working as a joiner. His job involved fitting and ripping out layers of asbestos from submarines docked for routine maintenance.

Plymouth MP Linda Gilroy, who sits on the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Asbestos, said Plymouth has one of the country's highest rates of asbestos-realted conditions.

"This decision is a huge disappointment," she said.

"There will soon be a meeting of the all-party group and we will look at this issue, as well as many others surrounding asbestos-related conditions, and will endeavour to lend as much support to it as we can."

The latest figures show 320 people dying from mesothelioma caused by asbestos between 1985 and 2004.

Cases are expected to peak between 2011 and 2015, as the condition takes between 30 to 40 years to emerge.

John Messham, head of the occupational disease department at Bond Pearce in Plymouth, said the firm has seen around 200 successful cases for pleural plaques in the last five years - with pay outs of between £3,500 and £7,000.

He said: "I could say the House of Lords has failed to recognise the anxiety caused by pleural plaques.

"It's the right decision for insurers but not the many thousands of people across the country who have the condition, for who it will be a devastating blow."

He added around 30 Plymothians' cases would have to be dropped following the announcement.

Derek Simpson, joint general secretary of Unite, said: "This is a harsh decision which will affect thousands of people with pleural plaques now and in the future."

The only three UK areas with higher figures of asbestos-related diseases are Barrow-in-Furness, West Dumbartonshire and North Tyneside.

'Cruel injustice' of axed asbestos pay-outs

FAMILIES and campaigners yesterday condemned the "injustice" of a House of Lords ruling which will end compensation for thousands of workers suffering from an asbestos- related condition.

The judgment removes an established right to compensation, which had existed for 20 years, to allow people with pleural plaques - scars on the lungs - to claim damages.

Those affected claim these scars can develop into more serious conditions including cancer. However, their longstanding right to compensation was subject to an appeal by insurance companies, with the Court of Appeal finding in the companies' favour last year that pleural plaques was not a disease.

Unions appealed this and the controversial case went before the Lords yesterday, where the Court of Appeal decision was upheld.

The five Law Lords who heard the cases agreed that the appeals should be dismissed because the law does not offer compensation to victims of injuries which cause no or trivial damage.

Activists have now pledged to ask the Scottish Parliament to bring in new legislation in Scotland to reverse the Lords' judgment.

They have prepared a bill, which has cross-party support, and will submit it to Kenny MacAskill, the justice secretary, urging him to change the law north of the Border.

Harry McCluskey, secretary of Clydeside Action on Asbestos, which represents hundreds of families of former shipyard and factory workers, said: "The judgment has gone against the workers who have to live with the condition with the appalling fear that it could develop into mesothelioma [a form of cancer].

"It is a ridiculous judgment and the injustice is cruel."

Ian Tasker, of the STUC, said: "The STUC has supported asbestos groups and we are extremely disappointed that this is another injustice to the victims of asbestos.

"The legal system pays too much attention to business and it doesn't pay enough attention to the victims."

Pleural plaques can, over time, make breathing difficult and, in some cases, can be accompanied by the development of serious respiratory diseases including mesothelioma and lung cancer.

Previously, victims could claim between £6,000 to £10,000 if they had pleural plaques and more if they developed mesothelioma.

Bill Kidd, an SNP MSP and Robert Brown, a Liberal Democrat MSP, backed the move to introduce new legislation at the Scottish Parliament.

Mr Kidd said: "This decision by the House of Lords flies in the face of common sense and has to be rectified as quickly as possible."

Bill Butler, a Labour MSP, added: "[The ruling] comes down on the side of the employers and insurance companies and disregards the legitimate case of victims and their families."

Solicitor-advocate Frank Maguire, of Thompsons Solicitors, a leading campaigner for asbestos victims, said: "This judgment will only diminish respect for the law by showing how divorced it can be from reality."


Is Vitamin C a Viable Treatment for Cancer?

Vitamin C whether intravenous or oral is one of the most prevalent types of alternative and complimentary cancer therapies. Yet, this nutrient is still considered “controversial” by mainstream oncology. Since two time Nobel Prize winner (in chemistry and peace) Dr. Linus Pauling advocated its use in cancer starting in the late 1970’s, evidence to its efficacy has been quietly and steadily mounting.

Humans Do Not Make Vitamin C

Almost all animals and plants synthesize their own vitamin C except humans and a small number of other animals, including, apes, guinea pigs, the red-vented bulbul, a fruit-eating bat and a species of trout.

Vitamin C and Cancer - Early Work

Pure L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C) was first prepared in 1928 by the Nobel prize winning biochemist Albert Szent-Gyorgyi and in 1932 it was shown that this substance was vitamin C. In 1954 and 1959 Dr. W. J. McCormick, a Canadian physician, hypothesized that cancer is a collagen disease, secondary to a vitamin C deficiency. His theory was based on the fact that collagen is the “mortar” that binds cells together and if cells stick together, tumors would have a more difficult time breaking away and metastasizing. This concept was expanded upon when, in 1966, Dr. Ewan Cameron wrote a book entitled “Hyaluronidase and Cancer.” In it he pointed out that the ground substance or “intercellular cement” that binds cells of normal tissues contains various molecules that strengthen it including glycosaminoglycans and fibrils of collagen. Dr. Cameron discussed how tumors can produce enzymes that breakdown these molecules (i.e. hyaluronidase and collagenase).

Linus Pauling, Ph.D. (chemistry) had been interested in vitamin C for many years and had written previously how people required large amounts of vitamin C (1). Working with Dr. Cameron, Dr. Pauling pointed out that Vitamin C could: A) stimulate normal cells to produce increased amounts of a hyaluronidase inhibitor and; B) increase the number of collagen fibrils made (2). Based on these theories, Drs. Pauling and Cameron embarked on a number of studies to test the efficacy of vitamin C in cancer patients.

Pauling and Cameron Studies Find Improvement in Survival and Quality of Life

In 1976, Drs. Pauling and Cameron reported the survival times of 100 terminal cancer patients who were given supplemental ascorbate (10 grams/daily intravenously) and those of a control group of 1,000 patients of similar status treated by the same clinicians in the same hospital (Vale of Leven Hospital in Scotland) who had been managed identically except for the ascorbate. The 1,000 controls were matched by sex, age, primary tumor type, and clinical status. By August 10, 1976 all 1,000 of the controls had died while 18 of the 100 ascorbate-treated patients were still living. As of September 15, 1979, five ascorbate treated patients were still alive and “living normal lives.” The 100 acorbate-treated patients lived, on the average, 300 days longer than their matched controls with better quality of life (measured from the time all patients were considered “untreatable”).

A second study was performed in 1978 with 100 new ascorbate-treated patients and 1,000 matched controls (about half of the controls were in the original set) (3). This analysis broke out the improved survival times by cancer type. For each type of cancer there was an improvement in survival.

Mayo Clinic Studies Do Not Show Significant Benefit

Pauling’s and Cameron’s studies were not considered the gold standard in clinical studies. The gold standard was and remains the randomized, prospective, double-blind study in which half the patients are randomized to one arm of a study, half to another arm and neither the patient nor the doctor knows who is getting what.

To test whether ascorbate was effective, Dr. Charles Moertel and his colleagues at the Mayo Clinic conducted two randomized placebo controlled studies of patients each with advanced cancer (published in 1979 and 1985) (4). Patients randomized to the treatment group were given 10 grams of oral ascorbate, and neither study showed significant benefit. (In the first Mayo study, median survival was improved two weeks with the ascorbate group.) Because Moertel’s studies were taken as definitive, ascorbate treatment was considered useless. There were however, at least three significant differences between the Mayo Clinic’s “definitive” studies and those of Drs. Pauling and Cameron.

Mayo Clinic Studies Did Not Replicate the Studies by Pauling and Cameron

Difference #1 - In First Mayo Study Most Patients Were Pretreated With Chemo

The overwhelming majority - 87% (52 of 60 patients) of the patients in the first Mayo study had received chemotherapy before the study began. In contrast, only 4% of the patients in Pauling and Cameron study had received chemo. Pauling wrote, “It is known that cytotoxic chemotherapy damages the immune system and might prevent the vitamin C from being effective, inasmuch as it functions mainly by potentiating this system.(5)”

This is a valid critique. A Pubmed search for vitamin C reveals a large number of peer reviewed medical and scientific journal articles that demonstrate that vitamin C scavenges free radicals when it acts as an antioxidant (6), helps neutralize carcinogenic chemicals such as nitrosamine and nitrites (7), enhances lymphocyte function and mobilization of phagocytes (8), improves natural killer cell activities (9), modulates cell growth and differentiation (10), and enhances IgA, IgG and IgM antibody levels (11). Several of these mechanisms are directly related to the body’s immune system and to cancer resistance. Cytotoxic (cell-killing) chemotherapy is notorious for seriously compromising the patient’s immune system by killing the cells that mediate immunity. (Note: in the 1985 Mayo clinic study, this difference was removed as none of the Mayo patients were administered prior chemotherapy.)

Difference #2 - Pauling and Cameron Administered Intravenous Vitamin C, the Mayo Studies Used Only Oral Vitamin C

A commentary published by doctors from the National Institute of Health (NIH) in 2000 pointed out that there was a second significant difference in study design that may have accounted for the different results in the Mayo Clinic studies (12). The authors explained that intravenous (IV) administration (used by Pauling and Cameron) was superior to oral administration (used by Moertel) in respect to bioavailability of the vitamin. The NIH authors said, “It is now clear that intravenous administration of ascorbate can yield very high plasma levels, while oral treatment does not.” The NIH authors concluded that, “Moertel’s results were not comparable to those of Cameron, as ascorbate was given orally and not intravenously. In retrospect, the route of administration may have been key.”(13)

This observation was repeated in another peer reviewed paper published in 2004 in the Annals of Internal Medicine which stated “Because efficacy of vitamin C treatment cannot be judged from clinical trials that use only oral dosing, the role of vitamin C in cancer treatment should be reevaluated.” (14)

Difference #3 - In Pauling’s and Cameron’s Studies, Vitamin C Therapy Continued For the Life of the Patient

And yet a third difference with the Mayo Clinic study was that vitamin C administration was discontinued immediately after a patient could no longer take oral medications or there was progression of the disease. Apparently, in the Pauling and Cameron studies the IV doses continued regardless of the patient’s changing status. Vitamin C was provided during the life of the patient. However, in Moertel’s studies, because it was administered orally, vitamin C was discontinued in a large number of patients whenever there was a sign of worsening. According to writer Ralph Moss, “Because of the odd departure from Cameron’s protocol, patients in the treatment arm of the experiment (in Moertel’s second study) received vitamin C for a median time of only 10 weeks. None of the Mayo patients died while receiving it. Their deaths occurred after the vitamin had been taken away from them.”(15)

Was the Goal of the Mayo Studies to Replicate Pauling and Cameron’s Work or Denounce It?

Obviously if the Mayo Clinic studies were designed to test the outcomes of Drs. Pauling and Cameron studies then they should have replicated their methodology of administration (as long as it was scientifically reliable and clinically appropriate). Why didn’t Moertel’s group administer the vitamin intravenously throughout the life of the patient? We don’t know. Any one of these discrepancies described above should have been sufficient for a complete reevaluation, but as is so often the case, the cancer establishment had successfully “proved” that a mere vitamin was of no value in cancer and the case was closed. Or was it?

Vitamin C Therapy is Still Used Today

In the intervening 20 years since Moertel’s last study two trends have continued: 1) patients are being administered IV vitamin C in various cancer clinics around the world and many are showing benefit; 2) the overall plausibility of ascorbic acid administered intravenously as a cancer therapy is being better understood by recent insights into clinical pharmacokinetics and its in vitro cancer-specific cytotoxicity.

Clinical Examples from the National Cancer Institute

A reading of Drs. Cameron and Pauling’s book “Cancer and Vitamin C” provides 26 case histories of patients with various cancers who received a benefit from vitamin C including: brain, breast, prostate, bladder, lung, stomach, ovarian cancer, leukemia and mesothelioma. But, since Cameron and Pauling have been considered advocates of vitamin C, here is another more disinterested source. Three case examples come from a peer reviewed article whose authors come from the National Cancer Institute, the National Institutes of Health, and universities. In a March 2006 article entitled “Intravenously administered vitamin C as cancer therapy: three cases” the authors examined clinical details of three cases in accordance with National Cancer Institute (NCI) Best Case Series guidelines (16). Tumor pathology was verified by pathologists at the NCI who were unaware of diagnosis or treatment. In all three cases (metastatic renal cancer, bladder cancer, and lymphoma), vitamin C demonstrated efficacy.

Although these case histories by themselves are insufficient to prove that vitamin C is an effective treatment for cancer, in the words of these authors, these histories “increase the clinical plausibility of the notion that vitamin C administered intravenously might have effects on cancer under certain circumstances.(17)”

Biological Mechanisms of Vitmain C Are Better Understood Today

The number of peer reviewed journal articles continues to grow that describe the clinical pharmacokinetics and in vitro cancer-specific cytotoxicity of vitamin C. In other words, how Vitamin C is absorbed by the body and can kill cancer cells. For example, an article published in the Annals of Internal Medicine set out the pharmacokinetics of intravenous vitamin C (18); another article in the journal Nature discussed how vitamin C preferentially killed melanoma cells (19); and there have been several articles in Anticancer Research(20), and Oncology (21) that described how ascorbate killed various other cancer cell lines in vitro.

Vitamin C and Collagen

You may recall that Drs. Cameron and Pauling pointed out that Vitamin C could increase the number of collagen fibrils made. In the last 20 years biochemists have described the molecular basis of scurvy and in doing so have helped us understand how vitamin C and collagen are related. Apparently vitamin C plays a role in collagen metabolism by acting as a cofactor in the enzymatic reactions involved in the hydroxylation of praline and lysine. Without this hydroxylation, proper aligned stable helices of the alpha chains are not formed, so the procollagen that is formed is unstable and degraded (22).

Vitamin C May Prolong Life

Vitamin C has many roles that may be associated with fighting cancer including: acting as an anti-oxidant and scavenging free radicals, supporting the various immune cells, modulating cell growth and differentiation, helping to synthesize carnitine which is essential for the transport of fat to mitochondria, and possibly even strengthening collagen. The mounting evidence does suggest that Drs. Pauling and Cameron were right and that vitamin C is a benefit to cancer patients. We will conclude, therefore, with their words, “Vitamin C is not a miraculous cure for cancer, but…it significantly prolongs the life of the cancer patient…We believe that supplemental ascorbate can be of real help to all cancer patients and of quite dramatic benefit to a fortunate few.”(23)

Perhaps our health authorities will recognize the benefit of this “mere” vitamin. But, maybe the issue all along was not the fact that vitamin C is a potentially effective and non-toxic therapy, but rather that drug companies cannot make sufficient profits from it because as a vitamin it is difficult to patent. If this is the case, it would be an example of how economics not medicine decides what therapies are made available for cancer.


Asbestos illnesses cost H&W £30m in compensation

MORE than £30 million pounds in compensation has been paid out to Harland & Wolff employees for asbestos-related illnesses.

As many as 2,693 employees have shared the £30,273,903 compensation since 2001.

But the compensation payout has only allowed employees to receive around £11,241.70 each.

Former Trade Minister Sir Reg Empey agreed in March 2002 to guarantee compensation for ex-shipyard staff.

According to figures also acquired in an Assembly question by DUP MLA Peter Weir, as many as 515 people have died in the last 10 years as a consequence of asbestos-related illnesses contracted through exposure to asbestos in their workplace during the previous decade.

In his Assembly response, the Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, Nigel Dodds, said asbestos- related diseases are in the main "occupationally acquired and include asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer".

It is pointed out that the number of deaths caused by asbestos-related lung cancer is not available.

But it was revealed that the number of deaths from asbestos-related lung cancer may equal those caused by mesothelioma – 439.

In his response Minister Dodds said Harland & Wolff was taken into public ownership in 1975.

"Harland & Wolff plc (H&W plc) remained in public ownership at the time of the privatisation of the shipbuilding business in 1989. All liabilities that existed at this time were retained in H&W plc," he said.

"DETI has guaranteed funding to H&W plc to enable it to meet liabilities as they fall due.

"This commitment covers funding to meet obligations that would fall to the company in relation to agreed compensation claims from employees who contracted asbestos-related illnesses. This position was affirmed in a statement to the Northern Ireland Assembly on 5 March 2002 by Sir Reg Empey, the then DETI Minister."

The news comes as campaigners warn that asbestos disease-linked deaths are at epidemic levels and could become worse in coming decades.

With 515 people dying in the last 10 years the Justice for Asbestos Victims' (JAV) spokeswoman, Fiona Sterritt, has warned greater heartache lies ahead for victims and their families.

She said: "There is no doubt that it is an epidemic. There are people who were working with it on a daily basis into the 1990s. "Anybody putting a noticeboard in a school could have been exposed to it. There is a latency there."

It takes years for asbestos-linked conditions like mesothelioma or lung cancer to develop. JAV was established in 2002 by sufferers and the families of those who died from the diseases.

Ms Sterritt added people like plumbers and electricians had been badly affected. "Everything built before the 1970s likely had some form of asbestos and it can take 30-40 years to develop," she added.

Lobbyists have predicted about 10,000 deaths a year across the UK. Most of those now suffering with asbestos-related diseases were exposed to asbestos between the 1940s and 1970s.

Health Minister Michael McGimpsey told Mr Weir that he was committed to helping those affected.

"This will include health promotion awareness as well as provision of the full range of primary, secondary and community care services appropriate to the respiratory and oncology illnesses commonly associated with asbestos exposure," he said.

In the Assembly Question, Trade Minister Nigel Dodds, revealed there were 53 deaths last year, up on 42 in 1997. In 2004 a total of 65 people passed away.