Tuesday, December 23, 2014 - On December 12, a transfer order was issued consolidating the lawsuits in relation to the drug Xarelto into multidistrict litigation in the Eastern District of Louisiana. Bayer and Johnson & Johnson are the pharmaceutical companies named in the lawsuit alleging that the two entities failed to properly warn patients of the risks associated with using Xarelto. Serious injuries and deaths related to the lack of a reverse agent to staunch bleeding events caused by the blood thinner are the main medical issues at the heart of the Xarelto lawsuits.
The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation cited the expected difficulties concerning informal coordination, discovery taking place in foreign countries and the high number of constituent and potential tag-along actions as some of the key factors influencing the decision to consolidate the lawsuits. 21 separate Xarelto lawsuits currently pending in 10 different states have been consolidated thus far, and it‘s been estimated that several thousand will eventually be included in the MDL in the coming months. U.S. District Judge Eldon E. Fallon was selected to preside over the proceedings.
Xarelto, the drug at the heart of the MDL, is an anti-coagulant used by physicians to lower the instances of blood clots and strokes. The drug‘s primary function is to be administered when dealing with atrial fibrillation, a condition that causes a patients heart to beat irregularly. Xarelto thins a patient‘s blood and lowers the risk of clots which can lead to strokes developing, but also leaves a patient more susceptible to serious bleeding incidents as it makes it more difficult for the body to close an open wound. Xarelto was originally intended to be used as an improved alternative to Warfarin, a similar drug that served the same purpose and had been in use for decades, in that it did not require patients to monitor their blood.
The crucial difference that has arisen between Xarelto and Warfarain is the reverse agent the latter uses to staunches the hemorrhaging of blood. When an uncontrollable bleeding event occurs with Warfarin, Vitamin K can be administered to combat the incident and allow the wound the clot. Xarelto has no such reverse agent, so many of its bleeding incidents have become serious and even fatal in the absence of a way to slow the bleeding. As many as 65 deaths thus far have been linked to Xarelto.
Plaintiffs claim that both Bayer and Johnson & Johnson did not adequately warn patients of these risks that came with taking Xarelto. The pharmaceutical companies claimed that the drug‘s benefits outweigh the risks and have continued to stand behind the functional quality of Xarelto. Plaintiffs also claim that the drug was not properly tested before its 2011 release. The drug has been popular since it became available, making more than $2 billion in sales in 2013 alone.
Bayer and Johnson & Johnson fought against multidistrict litigation, claiming there were too many differences in patients‘ medical histories to warrant the consolidation of all the lawsuits into an MDL. They also unsuccessfully argued in the case of centralization, for the courts to transfer the order to a New Jersey district court, closer to their headquarters. The process of this MDL may have just begun, but things aren‘t looking favorable for the defendants as another blood thinner similar to Xarelto, Pradaxa, recently finished settling over 4,000 lawsuits for $650 million in the beginning of 2014 aimed at the same bleeding issues as the ones being examined in this lawsuit.