Plaintiffs with lawsuits in the multidistrict litigation (MDL) involving the blood-thinning drug Xarelto are looking ahead to the trail phase, as four bellwether trial dates have been set for early 2017.
The drug’s makers, Bayer AG and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Johnson and Johnson, face more than 2,800 federally filed lawsuits have been consolidated in a multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the Eastern District of Louisiana. Another 550 cases are part of a mass tort program in Pennsylvania, in the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia.
Bellwether trials are common in a multidistrict litigation. With the input of all parties, representative cases are selected to go to trial first. These cases give both sides a chance to see how juries will respond to the kind of evidence and legal arguments that will be presented repeatedly as cases come to trial. The outcome of bellwether trials can influence whether cases continue to come to trial or the parties choose to work to reach a settlement.
The Xarelto lawsuits share common allegations, including that Xarelto use place an individual at increased risk of serious, possibly catastrophic, bleeding events. Xarelto users have also suffered blood clots, strokes, brain hemorrhages, and gastrointestinal bleeding, and eye bleeds, which the plaintiffs blame on Xarelto. The plaintiffs say the pharmaceutical companies were negligent in not warning of serious bleeding risks. There is no known antidote for Xarelto bleeding and some Xarelto users have suffered permanent injuries or have died. Warfarin—the older blood thinner that Xarelto has steadily displaced from the market—does have a readily available antidote.
Xarelto is heavily promoted as a less-burdensome alternative to warfarin because Xarelto users do not have to undergo regular blood testing or follow a restrictive diet as warfarin users do.
In addition to the bleeding risks, a new concern about Xarelto emerged in a recent lawsuit filing. The plaintiff raised questions about the proper dose of Xarelto and the need for blood testing to check the level of the drug in the patient’s blood. The man said he suffered a stroke just days after he began taking Xarelto because he was not prescribed an adequate dose. Currently, all patients receive the same once-daily Xarelto dose, regardless of their size or weight. The lawsuit claims that patients need a dose tailored to their bodies.