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A federal jury in Illinois returned a defense verdict late last week, in an AndroGel lawsuit filed by a man who alleged he suffered a pulmonary embolism due to side effects of the testosterone replacement therapy. The case was the latest in a series of early “bellwether” trials, which have resulted in mixed jury findings.
There are currently more than 6,500 testosterone injury lawsuits filed against the makers of Androgel, Testim, Axiron and other popular products marketed in recent years, each raising similar allegations that the drugs caused men to suffer heart attacks, strokes and various blood clot injuries.
On Friday, a defense verdict (PDF) in an Androgel pulmonary embolism case file by Robert Nolte, which was the third in a series of test cases set for early trial dates to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the litigation.
Given similar questions of fact and law raised by plaintiffs nationwide, all federal cases have been centralized before U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly in the Northern District of Illinois for coordinated discovery and management, as part of a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL).
The first two bellwether trials resulted in massive jury awards against AbbVie, the makers of Androgel, which is the most widely used testosterone drug. Separate juries ordered the drug maker to pay $150 million in punitive damages in July 2017 and $140 million in a second case in October 2017. During post-trial motions, the verdict in the first case was vacated due to inconsistent jury findings, and retrial is set for early March 2018.
The latest verdict comes amid a reshuffling of additional bellwether trials set for the remainder of this year, after the court announced last month that Eli Lilly had entered into an Axiron settlement agreement to resolve all of the testosterone claims against the company for an undisclosed amount. In addition, another trial slated for this week has been canceled.
During a January 19 telephone conference, parties involved in the litigation discussed the next phase of the litigation, and Judge Kennelly called for a joint status report in advance of the next case management conference, scheduled for February 1.
In a case management order (PDF) issued on January 23, the Court announced that three additional groups of cases involving “mixed use” of different testosterone drugs will be made trial ready over the next year and a half; with the first group of 12 cases scheduled to be ready for trial by August 1, 2018; the second group, consisting of 24 cases, ready by January 1, 2019; and a third group of 46 cases to be trial ready by July 1, 2019.
Although the outcomes of these bellwether trials are not binding on other plaintiffs, they are being closely watched by parties involved, as they may influence eventual negotiations to reach testosterone drug settlements, which would avoid the need for thousands of individual cases to be set for trial in courts nationwide over the coming years.