Articles Posted in Multidistrict Litigation

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Hydrocodone, Opioid Epidemic
I blogged previously about the United States opioid crisis and how many local and state governments were looking to the courts to help deal with it. Specifically, these governments have brought lawsuits against manufacturers and distributors of opioids.

When we last wrote about the opioid crisis, I explained how these lawsuits had only just begun. The following post is an update on how these lawsuits are progressing. But before we get to that, let’s discuss why opioids are generating these lawsuits.

The Legal Basis for Suing Opioid Manufacturers and Distributors

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Some of my clients have been asking me what is going on with the fourth Depuy Pinnacle bellwether trial. Non-clients have also been calling to inquire about the status of the trial. Did it start this week? Was it postponed? What is the deal with Depuy and Johnson & Johnson trying to stop the trial? Let’s take a quick look:

Fourth Bellwether Trial Underway 

Depuy Pinnacle MDL in Texas
The short answer is yes, the fourth bellwether trial began on Monday (September 18, 2017). Six plaintiffs injured by the Depuy Pinnacle hip (and four spouses) are bringing their claims against defendants in Dallas, Texas before Judge Kinkeade. You can read about previous Pinnacle bellwether trials and their huge jury awards here and here.

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Choosing an Out of State Product Liability Lawyer
So should you hire an out of state attorney? This is a question many people must answer, including those injured by a failed medical device or a prescription drug. I have had several clients who were initially skeptical about hiring an attorney who practiced 500 or 2,000 miles away. And I get it.

For many types of cases, choosing an attorney in your hometown or in your state is best. Do you need to set up a will with powers of attorney? Ask around and call the good lawyer who lives down the street or across town. Going through a divorce? Have a traffic ticket? Did someone breach a contract? Find someone in your city who comes highly recommended.

But what about product liability? Specifically, what about medical device or prescription drug cases? You need to find the right person to represent you, even if that person practices law in another state or across the country. Let’s look at some pros and cons of hiring an out of state product liability lawyer:

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Third Xarelto Bellwether Trial
Last Friday a jury in Jackson, Mississippi reached a verdict in favor of defendants in the third Xarelto bellwether trial. This was the third verdict in favor of defendants in the Xarelto multidistrict litigation. Plainly, the defense has had a good year. But remember, the MDL judge and the executive committees selected 40 cases for discovery and consideration as bellwethers, not three. As I tell my daughter when she comes home after the third day of school and announces she doesn’t like her teacher: “It’s too soon to have an opinion. Give it more time.”

Let’s take a look:

Third Xarelto Bellwether Trial  

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A few weeks ago I wrote about an Androgel testosterone case being tried in Illinois. We now have the verdict, and the result is, well, a mixed bag. Still, on balance, it must be viewed as a win for plaintiffs, and a major rebuke for companies like AbbVie, Inc. who aggressively market their prescription drugs for off-label uses. After all, at the end of trial the jury awarded the plaintiffs $150 million in punitive damages for fraudulent misrepresentation.

Androgel testosterone trial
Just to recap, Androgel is a roll-on testosterone product. Jesse Mitchell began taking Androgel in 2007 after doctors ran blood tests and found that Mitchell’s testosterone levels were quite low. In 2012, at the age of 49, Jesse Mitchell had a massive heart attack. From what I’ve read, the heart attack almost killed him.

Mitchell and his wife sued AbbVie in 2014, claiming the company marketed and sold Androgel without properly warning men about the increased risk for heart attacks. During the trial an expert for the Mitchells testified that in his opinion there was a connection between Mitchell’s 2012 heart attack and his extended use of Androgel.

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An important trial is taking place over testosterone in Illinois. As part of the testosterone prescription multidistrict litigation, manufacturer AbbVie, Inc. is defending itself against claims that Androgel, a roll-on testosterone product, caused the heart attack of Jesse Mitchell in 2012 after years of taking the prescription medication. Let’s take a look at that case:

Mitchell v. AbbVie Inc. (1:14-cv-09178) 

AbbVie's Androgel TestosteroneIn 2007 Jesse Mitchell visited his doctor complaining of a constellation of symptoms, including fatigue and depression. He was 44. The doctor ran tests and discovered Mr. Mitchell’s testosterone levels were quite low, and prescribed Androgel, an easy-to-use roll-on testosterone product manufactured and (aggressively) marketed by AbbVie, Inc. Mitchell applied the roll-on testosterone to his upper body for several years. In 2012, at the age of 49, he had a massive heart attack. From trial and media reports, the heart attack permanently damaged his heart and almost killed him.

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SGLT2 Inhibitor Diabetes Drugs
Originally touted as a wonder drug, a new class of medications based on SGLT2 inhibitors promised to help those suffering from Type 2 diabetes by increasing their ability to lower and control their blood sugar, while also lowering body weight and blood pressure. Pharmaceutical companies were hoping that these new products could potentially become blockbuster drugs. Invokana and Farxiga are two examples of SGLT2 inhibitors.

But just a few years after the release of these drugs in the United States, the drug companies started facing stiff competition among themselves. Additionally, the public learned of the serious risks of taking SGLT2 inhibitors. The purpose of this blog post is to provide a quick overview of SGLT2 inhibitor drugs and the status of their litigation.

What Is a SGLT2 Inhibitor?

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On June 12, 2017, a jury in New Orleans reached a verdict in favor of defendants in the second Xarelto bellwether trial. This verdict follows a defense verdict in the first bellwether trial. Let’s take a closer look.

The Second Xarelto Bellwether Trial  

Neoplastin PT Blood Test for Xarelto PatientsTo recap briefly, Xarelto (rivaroxaban) was first approved by the FDA for sale in 2011. As an anticoagulant, it was supposed to prevent pulmonary embolism (PE), deep vein thrombosis (DVT), strokes, and other serious conditions. And it was easier to take than warfarin. In studies, however, Xarelto caused a higher rate of complications from internal bleeding; but unlike other anticoagulant drugs, there is no “antidote” for stopping internal bleeding in patients. People bleed and often can’t stop bleeding.

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Diabetes Drug InvokanaDiabetes is an awful disease. It is a chronic condition that affects the way the body metabolizes sugar. Diabetes is also a growing health problem in the United States, with over 29 million Americans currently suffering from the disease. Of the newly diagnosed cases of diabetes in adults, approximately 95% are for Type 2 diabetes (sometimes referred to as adult onset). It’s also expected that one out of every three people will develop diabetes in their lifetimes.

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the human body doesn’t produce enough insulin, a hormone used to help the body absorb glucose. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the human body produces enough insulin, but cannot use insulin properly. Both types of diabetes result in high blood sugar levels which can cause long-term health problems.

What does all this mean? From the perspective of pharmaceutical companies, it means there is a huge market for Type 2 diabetes drugs.

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Pregnant Woman Taking Zofran for NauseaZofran is an anti-nausea drug. It works to prevent nausea and vomiting by blocking the effects of serotonin, a chemical in the body that triggers nausea and vomiting. The drug was designed to help cancer patients dealing with the side effects of chemotherapy but it was also approved by the FDA for those suffering nausea due to radiation therapy, anesthesia and surgery. Nevertheless, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) eventually pushed to market and sell Zofran to pregnant women. Women who are pregnant are often plagued by morning sickness, and some can suffer from extreme nausea. The problem is, the FDA never approved the use of Zofran for pregnant women; it’s an “unapproved” use of the drug. Unfortunately, “off-label drug use” is very common. I wrote about off-label drug use and its potential dangers here.

By 2013, 110,000 monthly prescriptions of Zofran were issued to pregnant women. If this were an approved use, we could rest easier, as an approved use means the drug has been thoroughly tested and evaluated, with the determination backed up by “strong scientific data.” For unapproved uses there is none of that. If a drug is approved for any use, a doctor can then use his best judgment to prescribe the drug for any other purpose.

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