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Following a series of massive damage awards against AbbVie in early Androgel lawsuits that have gone to trial, the U.S. District Judge presiding over the federal litigation has ordered the parties to meet later this week for an in-person conference, to discuss the status of settlement negotiations.
There are currently more than 6,500 testosterone replacement therapy lawsuits pending in the federal court system, each raising similar allegations that the manufacturers or Androgel, Testim, Axiron and other popular drugs failed to adequately warn consumers and the medical community about the risk of heart attacks, strokes, blood clots and other health problems.
Given similar questions of fact and law raised by plaintiffs nationwide, the lawsuits have been centralized for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings before U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly in the Northern District of Illinois, as part of a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL).
To help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the litigation, Judge Kennelly has established a bellwether trial program, where small groups of cases against each drug maker have been prepared for early trial dates, which began over the summer and will continue throughout 2018.
The bellwether program started with two Androgel cases against AbbVie, which manufactures the most widely used testosterone replacement drug. In July 2017, one jury ordered AbbVie to pay $150 million in punitive damages, indicating that the drug maker should be punished for recklessly disregarding the safety of users. In a second Androgel trial that ended earlier this month, a separate jury returned another massive verdict against AbbVie, including $140 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
While post-trial motions are being filed in those cases, and AbbVie is expected to appeal, a third case is set to begin against Auxilium Pharmaceuticals on November 6, involving similar allegations regarding failure to warn about side effects of Testim testosterone gel.
In a Minute Entry (PDF) posted to the MDL docket on October 19, Judge Kennelly directed settlement counsel for plaintiffs and AbbVie, as well as general counsel for the drug maker, to appear in chambers on November 2, 2017 at 10:30 a.m. to discuss the status of Androgel settlement negotiations.
If the cases can not be settled, Judge Kennelly has previously indicated that additional bellwether trials against AbbVie will go before juries early next year.
Following the bellwether process in the MDL, if the drug makers fail to reach testosterone injury settlements or otherwise resolve the litigation, hundreds of individual cases may be remanded back to U.S. District Courts nationwide for separate trials.