A Wisconsin-based metabolomics (study of metabolites and its chemical interactions) company has won the contract to screen products and medications for possible health risks for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of its Toxicity Forecaster (ToxCast) initiative. The primary objective of this particular contract is to determine the health effects of certain products, drugs, and chemicals on pregnant women, and their potential to cause birth defects.

Stemina Biomarker Discovery is based in Madison, and will spread the $10.6 million budget over 5 years, testing as many potentially dangerous products as possible in that time using a patented technique combining those used in metabolomics and stem cell research. This mainly involves exposing living cells to the chemicals, drugs or consumer products being tested, and noting any irregularities in the interactions which may indicate the risk of harm to human subjects. Because the screening process uses living cells instead of lab animals, the method is certain to get approval by animal rights activities. And because the process can be used to screen a large quantity of products in a relatively short time, it is believed to be an efficient and cost-effective way to control the distribution of potentially harmful products into the market.

How effective the screening method is remains to be seen, however. As a third party provider, Stemina is presumed to be an objective arbiter of what’s safe or not insofar as the tests can determine. Under its current EPA contract, the emphasis is on preventing birth defects. But in the case of drugs that may have other serious side effects, the tests may be less definitive. As pointed out in an article on the website of law firm Williams Kherkher, prescriptive drugs such as the antipsychotic medication Risperdal have a long list of adverse side effects that may not be discovered until after some time.

If you have suffered preventable harm or injury from the use of dangerous medications, you will want to make the responsible party pay for their negligence. Consult with a product liability lawyer to have your cases assessed.