Environment Picture

Drug giant drops lindane lawsuit against Ecology Center

MEC, Ecology Center among those seeking to restrict use of dangerous chemical on children
The Michigan Environmental Council supported member group Ecology Center in defending itself from a frivolous lawsuit filed by Morton Grove Pharmaceuticals. The company’s suit was designed, in MEC’s opinion, to thwart efforts by the Center and others, including MEC, from pursuing legislation to restrict the dangerous chemical’s use on children. The following is a press release issued in March when Morton Grove agreed to drop its lawsuit. On May 15, the State House passed restrictions on lindane, a major victory in efforts to protect children. The bill’s fate in the State Senate was not available by press time.

The Ecology Center announced today an end to the suit filed against it by Morton Grove Pharmaceuticals. After nearly two years of litigation where the company alleged at least $9.3 million in damages, the parties entered into a settlement in which Morton Grove drops its lawsuit and the Ecology Center makes no payment to the company, nor any admission of liability.
“We consider this outcome an unqualified victory,” said Mike Garfield, Director of the Ecology Center. “We’re glad to be able once again to focus 100% of our efforts on protecting public health and the environment.”
In early 2006, the Ecology Center, medical professionals, and other environmental organizations launched a campaign to urge the Michigan Legislature to restrict the use of pharmaceutical lindane. Lindane is a chemical ingredient that has been banned for all uses in 52 countries and the state of California due to concerns about public health and the environment. In 2006, lindane was voluntarily withdrawn for use in U.S. agriculture. Lindane is also no longer used in the U.S. in the military and on livestock and pets. Yet, lindane can be used in Michigan for prescription treatments for head lice and scabies.
Morton Grove Pharmaceuticals filed suit in July 2006 in U.S. District Court in Chicago, charging the Ecology Center, one of its employees, and two members of the Michigan Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics with defamation, tortious interference, trade disparagement and deceptive trade practices.
Despite those allegations, the settlement requires the Ecology Center to:
  • Make no financial payment to Morton Grove;
  • Make no admission of liability; and
  • Post seven minor clarifications of previous statements on lindane on its website for two weeks —clarifications similar to ones the Center offered to make when first threatened with the suit almost two years ago.
The terms of the settlement are not confidential and are available from the Ecology Center upon request.
“We strongly support legislation to phase out pharmaceutical use of lindane,” said Sheila Gahagan, MD, MPH, immediate past-president of the American Academy of Pediatrics (Michigan Chapter). “The lawsuit was an unfortunate and intentional diversion to the important work of protecting children’s health.”
The Ecology Center’s Garfield added, “From the outset, we viewed Morton Grove’s lawsuit as a baseless tactic designed to stifle public debate.”
House Bill 4569, introduced by Rep. Ted Hammon, would restrict pharmaceutical use of lindane in the Michigan. Major health professional organizations in Michigan support the bill, including the Michigan Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Michigan Nurses Association, the Michigan Association of School Nurses, the Michigan Pharmacists Association, and the Wayne County Medical Society. The Michigan Department of Community Health does not recommend lindane use for either head lice or scabies.
“The state’s most prestigious medical authorities are calling for a restriction on the ingredient lindane,” said Tracey Easthope, MPH, Environmental Health Director of the Ecology Center. “The Michigan Legislature should act now to protect the public from this toxic pesticide.”
© Copyright Michigan Environmental Council, All rights reserved