Second Attempt Being Made to Centralize Federal Plavix Litigation

Bristol-Myers Squibb and Sanofi-Aventis have filed a second request to consolidate and centralize all Plavix lawsuits filed in U.S. District Courts throughout the country, asking a panel of federal judges to reconsider a prior decision to deny the formation of a multidistrict litigation (MDL), given the increasing number of lawsuits being filed by individuals who allege they experienced problems caused by side effects of Plavix.

The drug makers filed another motion to coordinate the Plavix litigation (PDF) on October 15, asking the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to centralize pretrial proceedings in a U.S. District Court in New Jersey or New York.

Centralization of complex product liability lawsuits is often granted when there are a large number of complaints filed throughout the country involving common question of fact, such as allegations that similar injuries were caused by the same medication. Such coordination is designed to reduce duplicative discovery, avoid conflicting rulings and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.

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According to Bristol-Myers Squibb and Sanofi-Aventis, which jointly manufacture and market the popular blood thinner, there are currently at least 30 Plavix lawsuits pending in 11 different U.S. District Courts. Each of the claims involve similar allegations concerning the drug makers’ failure to adequately research Plavix or warn about the potential side effects.

The panel rejected a similar request to centralize the Plavix litigation in December 2011, indicating that consolidation would not help move the cases through the system faster and would provide no benefit to the parties involved. However, at that time there were only 12 product liability lawsuits over Plavix pending in the federal court system, with 10 of those already pending before one judge.

The drug makers argue for reconsideration, indicating that the number of cases has more than doubled, and that newly filed cases are spread out among a larger number of judges. The motion argues that now it would be more appropriate for Plavix MDL to be formed.

Plavix cases filed at the state court level in New Jersey have already been centralized before one judge. However, the Supreme Court of New Jersey stopped just short of giving the litigation over Plavix a mass tort designation, the state-level equivalent to an MDL. Instead, the cases were all simply assigned to Judge Jessica R. Mayer for centralized case management.

Litigation Alleges Failure to Warn About Plavix Side Effects

Plavix (clopidogrel) is a blockbuster medication, which has been aggressively marketed and promoted by the drug makers. As a result, millions of people have been prescribed the blood thinner, generating more than $6.5 billion in U.S. sales for Bristol Myers Squibb Co. and Sanofi-Aventis in 2010.

The drug is prescribed to prevent blood platelets from sticking together to form clots. It is often prescribed to reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes and blood clotting when drug coated stents are used in patients with arteriosclerosis and in other at-risk patients. However, questions have been raised about the effectiveness of the medication among certain individuals and whether it provides any benefits over taking an aspirin.

In lawsuits throughout the country, Plaintiffs allege that they suffered various injuries as a result of their unnecessary use of Plavix, such as gastrointestinal bleeding, severe ulcers and a rare blood disorder known as thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP).

Some complaints also allege that Plavix did not provide the promoted benefit of reducing the risk of a heart attack or stroke, raising questions about the effectiveness of Plavix among some users.


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