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New treatment for lung cancer patients
1st December 2004 - A NEW combined treatment for patients with inoperable lung cancer could increase life expectancy from months to years, researchers said today.
The normal life expectancy for a patients after being diagnosed with inoperable non-small cell lung cancer, which accounts for around 60% of all cases, is around eight months.
But researchers addressing the winter meeting of the British Thoracic Society in London said a new treatment could significantly increase that.
Doctors from Liverpool Lung Cancer Unit gave 75 patients high doses of concurrent chemoradiation and radical radiotherapy between 1997 and 2004.
Life expectancy was extended to one year in 76% of patients, 45% at two years, 40% at three years and 26% at five years.
The researchers said the treatment was generally well tolerated and quality of life was significantly improved.
There were no deaths related to the radical treatment.
The unit's Dr Joe Maguire said: "Not all patients are suitable for this treatment unfortunately.
"But we have shown that it is an effective and safe treatment for those with locally advanced lung cancer who are generally fit otherwise and offers the prospect of significant long term survival."
An extensive national trial of the technique will start in January, comparing the method with existing treatments.
Professor Andrew Peacock, of the British Thoracic Society, said: "This research offers a ray of hope for some of the 38,000 people diagnosed with lung cancer in the UK every year.
"Yet unfortunately funding this kind of research into lung disease is not being given the national priority it deserves considering the huge burden it places on the NHS and society at large.
"There is an urgent need for increased funding for respiratory research in the UK."
Hardie inquiry publicity brings surge in claims
February 23, 2005 - PUBLICITY surrounding the inquiry into James Hardie contributed to a surge in the number of asbestos-related claims lodged with one of the nation's biggest insurers.
Promina, Australia's second-largest general insurer, said asbestos claims in the second half of its financial year were 75 per cent higher than it expected.
The company, which reported a 54 per cent increase in annual profit to a record $458million yesterday, decided to increase the amount of money it sets aside for asbestos payouts after it also increased its estimates of the number of future claims.
Promina chief financial officer Harold Bentley said last year's inquiry into James Hardie's asbestos liabilities had drawn attention to the issue of asbestos-related diseases and that the resultant publicity might have "flushed some (claims) out".
Promina also noted in its financial statements that the propensity of people who develop mesothelioma to file a claim had been steadily increasing over the past decade.
Australian building materials maker James Hardie offered a $1.5billion settlement to people sickened by asbestos contained in its products after a NSW government inquiry found the company misled investors about the cost of compensation.
Promina said the combination of additional claims reported last year and the additional information from the inquiry about James Hardie's own claims experience also led to it revising up its estimate of expected future claims. This led to a decision to increase its reserves for asbestos claims by $60million.
It said most of the claims were on workers' compensation policies held by tradespeople such as plumbers and mechanics exposed to asbestos in the workplace. The insurer had 42 such claims in the second half of last year, while only 24 were forecast. Promina boosted its forecast for claims to about 30 a year through to 2012, from the previous estimate of 15 a year. It expects claims to keep coming in beyond 2029.
Promina shares slumped 28c or more than 5 per cent to $5.20 yesterday despite its record profit. Some investment market analysts put the fall down to fears of future asbestos liabilities.
Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union national secretary John Sutton said people who were suffering from mesothelioma would not need to be told what they were suffering from through media campaigns.
"The fact is we're seeing an increase in the numbers of people who worked on asbestos-clad cottages in the 1960s and 1970s coming down with mesothelioma now," Mr Sutton said.
But he said people suffering from the less severe disease asbestosis, who might have passed it off as something else, might also now realise they could claim for it.
G-P's asbestos claims decline
March 1, 2005 - Georgia-Pacific Corp. reported that the number of asbestos claims filed against it continued to decline in 2004, even as the amount of money it paid on claims hit the $200 million mark.
In its annual report filed March 1 with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Georgia-Pacific (NYSE: GP) said the total number of new claims filed against the Atlanta-based company last year were 32 percent below 2003 levels. At the end of 2004, there were 59,700 pending claims, down from 64,300 at the end of 2003. During 2004, 26,500 new claims were filed against the company, down from 39,000 new claims filed in 2003, the company reported.
The company said total payments to resolve and defend asbestos claims in 2004 were $200 million, compared with $189 million in 2003. The company said it paid almost 33 percent more mesothelioma and cancer claims during 2004 than it had projected. Compared with 2003, the average per-claim payment for mesothelioma cases fell 27 percent, cancer per-claim averages fell 16 percent, and average per claim payments for non-malignant diseases fell 20 percent.
Georgia-Pacific reported that from the beginning of asbestos litigation through Jan. 1, 2005, it has either settled, dismissed or was in the process of settling about 344,300 asbestos claims. During this time its asbestos payments, for liability, defense and administration, before insurance recoveries and tax benefits, totaled approximately $830 million.
Georgia-Pacific's asbestos liabilities relate primarily to products manufactured by Bestwall Gypsum Co. and Georgia-Pacific's gypsum business that contained small amounts of asbestos fiber. Georgia-Pacific acquired Bestwall Gypsum Co. in 1965, and discontinued using asbestos in the manufacture of these products in 1977.
The Asbestos Alliance, a national organization made up of companies defending against asbestos claims, reports 37 companies have gone bankrupt since 2000 because of asbestos litigation. Between 1982 and 2002, asbestos-related litigation costs in the United States jumped from $1 billion to $70 billion, according to the Asbestos Alliance.
But Georgia-Pacific's profit actually climbed in 2004, despite flat annual sales and a fourth-quarter increase in funds to cover asbestos lawsuits. It reported net income of $623 million on $19.7 billion in sales, compared with net income of $254 million on $19.7 billion in sales in 2003. Results for 2004 included a pretax charge of $159 million related to asbestos litigation, which includes an increase of $48 million to add the 10th year to the company's asbestos reserve, a $109 million increase in reserves for its asbestos defense spending through 2014 and a net $2 million reduction of its asbestos insurance receivables.