Crop Input Providers Anti Competitive Practices Placing American Farms In Financial Jeopardy: Lawsuit

The cost of farm crop inputs such as seeds, herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides are increasing at rates that are significantly higher than revenues generated from crop yields.

The skyrocketing input prices are causing farmers to take on operating debt, often forcing them into bankruptcy, and creating a crisis situation in the agriculture community for American farmers who are critical to the nation’s food supply.

The cost increases are not attributable to any independent legitimate cause, such as weather or other factors. Instead they are being attributed to unlawful agreements between manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers involved in the farm input supply chain according to a recently filed lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges defendants across the supply chain have established a secretive distribution process designed to keep crop input prices inflated at supra competitive levels and to deny farmers access to relevant market information that would allow for comparison shopping and better-informed purchasing decisions.

Defendants also concealed information about seed relabeling practices that would enable farmers to know if they are buying newly developed seeds or identical seeds repackaged under a new brand name and sold for a higher price.


Defendants Sought To Suppress Third Party Competition

Beginning at least as early as 2014, new online Crop Inputs sales platforms launched and offered pricing comparison tools to allow farmers to view what other farmers were paying for the same Crop Inputs, thus increasing price transparency. These online sales platforms, including Farmers Business Network (“FBN”) and AgVend Inc., became successful with farmers.

Viewing this success, Defendants conspired and coordinated to boycott these online Crop Inputs sales platforms because of the threat they posed to Defendants’ market position and price control. For example, the Manufacturer Defendants and Wholesaler Defendants agreed amongst themselves not to sell Crop Inputs to FBN, and enforce strict discipline on Retailer Defendants who failed to comply with the boycott. Defendants Syngenta, Bayer, BASF, and Corteva used audits and inspections of their authorized retailers to ensure that online Crop Inputs sales platforms were unable to obtain Crop Inputs from their authorized retailers.

The Defendants’ boycott succeeded. As a result of their anti-competitive conduct, online Crop Inputs sales platforms, such as FBN and AgVend, were unable to purchase Defendants’ Crop Inputs in order to sell them on their platforms. Because Defendants are the dominant manufacturers and sellers of Crop Inputs, this was a devastating blow to these sales platforms and directly harmed farmers in taking away a lower cost option for purchasing these Crop Inputs.

Defendant’s anti competitive conduct is the subject of ongoing investigations by the Canadian Competition Bureau (“CCB”) and the Unites States Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”). A Canadian federal court has found that there is sufficient evidence to require Defendants to also produce records concerning their coordinated anticompetitive conduct in the United States. The FTC is likewise investigating anticompetitive conduct in the Crop Inputs market. At lease one defendant, Corteva, has received a subpoena from the FTC directing it to submit documents related to Crop Inputs “in order to determine whether Corteva engaged in unfair methods of competition through anticompetitive conduct.”

Elmiron Lawsuit Alleges Latent Retinal Damage And Impaired Vision Caused By Bladder Drug

According to allegations raised in a recently filed product liability lawsuit, a California woman suffered permanent retinal damage from Elmiron, claiming the makers of the bladder drug failed to warn consumers and the medical community about toxic side effects the medication may have on vision.

The complaint (PDF) was filed by Shirley Ruth Levy in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey on August 12, indicating she was left with vision loss following four years of using Elmiron for treatment of interstitial cystitis or “painful bladder syndrome.”

The lawsuit names Azla Corporation, Johnson & Johnson, several of its subsidiaries, including Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Bayer Healthcare, and Teva Pharmaceuticals as defendants, indicating that the drug makers knew or should have known about the link between Elmiron and retinal damage for years, yet withheld warnings and information until a label update was issued in June 2020.

Elmiron (pentosan polysulfate sodium or PPS) has been marketed as safe and effective since 1996, without any indication provided until recently about the toxic effects on the retina, which may result in a condition known as pigmentary maculopathy.

Prior to the warning label update in June 2020, a series of independent studies and case reports have been published in recent years that described users of Elmiron who experienced damage to the retina, resulting in difficulty adjusting in dark light, problems reading, centralized dark spots and other complications. However, prior information was not provided to users or the medical community about the importance of monitoring for vision problems while using the medication.

“At all relevant times, Defendants have failed to adequately warn or instruct patients, the medical community, or prescribers in the United States that Elmiron causes, is linked to, and is associated with vision threatening retinal changes, including vision loss,” the lawsuit states. “Defendants failed to mention vision-threatening retinal changes or the need for opththalmological monitoring in any of the patient materials – including the Patient Education Flyer and Patient Brochure – the sources of information most likely viewed by physician and patients.”

Levy indicates she began taking Elmiron in 2013, and continued to use the medication through at least 2017. As a result of the exposure, she claims that she has suffered toxic maculopathy, retinal damage, blurred vision, distorted vision and other vision problems.

The case joins a growing number of Elmiron lawsuits now being pursued throughout the U.S. court system, each involving similar allegations that former users may have avoided permanent retinal damage if earlier warnings and information had been provided.

Since most ophthalmologists were previously unaware of the vision risks associated with Elmiron, many users were misdiagnosed with other forms of retinal disease and continued to be exposed to the medication, further worsening the damage.

As Elmiron lawyers continue to review and file claims in the coming months and years, it is expected that hundreds of similar complaints may be brought in state and federal courts nationwide.