The Lab Whose Junk Science Is Fueling a Frenzy of Litigation

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Legitimate consumer protection demands sound science and impartial analysis — not distorted data designed to manufacture lawsuits.

This op-ed was originally published by The Hill.

A private lab scrutinized for its dubious scientific methods and for peddling junk science to trial lawyers on the taxpayer’s dime is now fueling a new wave of lawsuits against American manufacturers.

The latest target is the $5 billion acne medication industry. This is just the most recent example of what has burgeoned into a lucrative racket that must be stopped.

Valisure, a Connecticut-based laboratory, has become a one-stop shop for plaintiffs’ lawyers seeking to manufacture mass tort claims. The lab’s pattern is clear: Conduct unrealistic product testing, make alarming claims about contamination, and invite a litigation frenzy targeting what are perceived as deep-pocketed companies.

For example, Valisure claims to have detected benzene, a carcinogen, in certain acne products. But the lab’s methods are highly suspect. It subjected products to temperatures up to 158 degrees Fahrenheit, far exceeding the temperatures at which such topical acne products are intended to be stored or used. Not surprisingly, plaintiffs’ lawyers quickly pounced, filing more than 20 lawsuits against Walgreens, Kenvue, and others.

This isn’t Valisure’s first rodeo. The lab was behind the now-debunked Zantac litigation, which U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenberg eviscerated in late 2022. Rosenberg found that Valisure had used “unreliable methodologies” such as heating Zantac to over 200 degrees Fahrenheit, twice the temperature of the average healthy person. The judge blasted the lab’s “lack of documentation,” “lack of substantiation for analytical leaps,” and “lack of statistically significant data.”

Despite its track record of concocting junk science, Valisure somehow secured a lucrative contract last year from the U.S. Department of Defense to test medications for our troops. This is a disappointing misuse of taxpayer dollars, as the company is in no way deserving of such important responsibility in support of our service members and their families.

Valisure’s close ties to the plaintiffs’ bar raise even more concerns about serious conflicts of interest. Reports last year found that Valisure offered to conceal testing information in litigation against Unilever — for a price. It appears Valisure’s real business model is legal shakedowns, not science.

The lab, however, seems to have found some help from friends in high places. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), whose district includes Valisure, played an integral role both in its securing the defense contract and in enabling this shakedown. Instead of probing Valisure’s credibility problems, DeLauro is pressuring the FDA to “hold accountable” companies that Valisure accuses, parroting the lab’s claims. Valisure itself states that it develops its own standards that “go beyond the current…benchmarks.”

As more lawsuits arise basing their claims on Valisure’s questionable testing practices, our courts and regulators must rigorously scrutinize this lab’s methods and potential conflicts of interest. Unchecked junk science erodes public trust, overwhelms the judicial system with meritless cases, and jeopardizes companies that produce essential everyday goods.

Rather than surrender to profit-driven litigation funded by plaintiffs’ lawyers, we must uphold rigorous scientific standards. The newly amended Federal Rule of Evidence 702 empowers and instructs judges to critically examine an expert’s methodology before allowing testimony — a crucial safeguard against the type of questionable, litigation-driven science promoted by Valisure.

Legitimate consumer protection demands sound science and impartial analysis — not distorted data designed to manufacture lawsuits. Safeguarding scientific integrity protects not just businesses targeted by this scheme, but the entire civil justice system’s credibility.

The American people deserve better than junk science proliferating frivolous litigation. It’s time to reject manipulated testing that enriches the few at the expense of the many. Our regulatory bodies, courts, and elected leaders must demand and uphold a fidelity to facts over avarice. Only then can we restore accountability to a system compromised by profit motives masquerading as consumer advocacy.

Tiger Joyce is president of the American Tort Reform Association.

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