Sunday, April 30, 2006

What's behind the lawsuits filed against sunscreen companies?

Who and what is really behind the lawsuits that were launched this week against major sunscreen manufactuers in the United States?

- A Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges sunscreen manufacturers exaggerate the degree to which their products protect against harmful ultraviolet rays.

Attorney Samuel Rudman describes sunscreen as "the snake oil of the 21st century."

Schering-Plough Corporation, which makes Coppertone, vigorously disputes the allegations. The company and Neutrogena say all of their sunscreens comply with Food and Drug Administration rules.

The lawsuit claims misleading sunscreen labels have created a false sense of security among sunbathers. The complaint says sunscreens protect against UVB rays, but research indicates they don't block all UVA rays, which can cause skin cancer, aging and wrinkling.

The suit seeks refunds for anyone who bought a falsely advertised sunscreen and to force manufacturers to give up earnings from the sales of any such products.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Evidence supporting the lawsuit

Several medical groups have reviewed studies on the effectiveness of sunscreens. Here are a few of them:

  • American College of Preventive Medicine
    - CA Journal - 1998
    "..evidence is insufficient to the use of sunscreens, especially when sunscreen use would lead to increased sun exposure."
  • Sunscreen, Skin Cancer, and UVA - Medical College of Wisconsin
    "Sunscreens do protect skin from sunburn, but a scientific debate simmers about the role of lower-energy ultraviolet light in skin damage and whether current sunscreens provide adequate protection. Most sunscreens do a good job blocking UVB, but fewer sunscreens filter out most of the UVA, so they do not help to prevent the beginnings of melanoma formation. As prevention, however, sunscreens alone appear to be imperfect. Researchers at the Queensland Institute for Medical Research in Brisbane, Australia, reported in 1999 that sunscreen use reduces the risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma by 40%. But using sunscreen did not reduce the risk of developing melanoma or basal cell carcinoma. The Australian study followed 1,383 adults for five years."

  • The Burning Question: Does Sunscreen Prevent Skin Cancer? - Harvard Center for Cancer Prevention
    "Sun exposure is the major cause of skin cancer, and sunscreen can help protect against sunburn, but can sunscreen prevent skin cancer? It sounds like a tongue twister, but it’s really one of the most burning questions in the area of cancer prevention. Put more simply: is sunscreen an effective way to lower the risk of skin cancer? Epidemiologic results on sunscreen and skin cancer have been mixed. Some studies have suggested that sunscreen may protect against skin cancer, while others have shown just the opposite—that it can increase risk."
  • Sunscreen doubts raised - September 2003
    LONDON, England - Sunscreen creams may be less effective than previously thought in blocking the harmful rays that can cause skin cancer, according to research. Scientists from the medical research charity the Restoration of Appearance and Function Trust (RAFT), based at Mount Vernon Hospital in north London, have found that even when the creams are applied in the correct dosage, harmful ultraviolet A (UVA) light is still able to penetrate to the skin beneath.

    "Since the use of sunscreen creams encourages people to stay longer in the sun and the protection afforded by these creams against UVB far outweighs that against UVA - the use of sunscreen creams may therefore indirectly increase the risk of developing the skin malignancy melanoma," a RAFT spokeswoman told the Press Association (PA).

The complaint

Bill Lerach's, a senior partner in a Los Angeles lawfirm posted an amended complaint on their web site. They are perhaps best known for going after Enron Corp. and other companies on behalf of shareholders have found a new target - sunscreen manufacturers.