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The U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal peripheral neuropathy lawsuits being pursued against the makers of fluoroquinolone-based antiboitics has scheduled the first bellwether trials to begin in August 2018, with a series of Avelox cases and Cipro cases set to go before juries to help gauge how they may respond to evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the litigation.
There are currently more than 700 product liability lawsuits pending throughout the federal court system involving allegations that makers of fluoroquinolones failed to adequately warn about the risk of permanent peripheral neuropathy, which leaves users with debilitating nerve damage long after their last use of the antibiotics. In addition to cases against the makers of Avelox and Cipro, a number of pending claims involve Levaquin cases against Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals subsidiary.
Fluoroquinolones are a popular class of medications, which have been widely used in recent years to treat a variety of infections. However, due to a number of serious side effects linked to the antibiotics, federal regulators have recently warned that the drugs should not be considered for uncomplicated infections.
Peripheral neuropathy involves damage to the nerves that may impair sensation, movement and other aspects of health. This may leave users with persistent pain, burning, tingling, numbness, weakness and sensitivity to light touches, temperature and motion in the arms and legs, as well as other problems that cause a major disruption to daily activities.
While warnings provided by the makers of Levaquin, Avelox and Cipro have previously indicated that some users experienced temporary nerve damage in rare cases, it was not until 2013 that information was provided about the risk of severe and long-lasting peripheral neuropathy, which may continue for months or even years after the drug is discontinued. Plaintiffs allege that the manufactures knew or should have known about the risk for years, yet withheld information from consumers and the medical community.
Given similar questions of fact and law raised in the peripheral neuropathy litigation, all claims are consolidated for pretrial proceedings as part of a federal multidistrict litigation, or MDL, which is centralized before U.S. District Judge John R. Tunheim in the District of Minnesota to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings and serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.
In a pretrial order (PDF) issued on January 17, Judge Tunheim scheduled a series of four Avelox bellwether trials and two Cipro trials, which will begin in the second half of next. Such bellwether cases are typically designed to allow the parties to gauge the relative strengths and weaknesses of their claims and defenses, potentially helping the parties facilitate Avelox and Cipro settlement agreements.
The first four Avelox trials will begin on August 6, 2018, October 8, 2018, February 4, 2019, and June 10, 2019, with two Cipro trials set to begin on December 3, 2018, and April 8, 2019.
The order also includes schedules for completing case-specific discovery, expert witness depositions and motions in the bellwether cases, which will be identified by the parties this week. The parties have been directed to each identify four Avelox bellwether candidates and four Cipro bellwether candidates. The Court will then narrow those selections down to a group of four Avelox lawsuits at the October 2017 case management conference, and two Cipro lawsuits by the December 2017 conference. Those claims will then be prepared for trial.
In addition to claims over failure to warn about the peripheral neuropathy risk, a growing number of aortic aneurysm lawsuits and aortic dissection lawsuits have also been filed in recent months against the makers of Avelox, Cipro and Levaquin, alleging that side effects of the medications also increase the risk of painful and potentially life-threatening complications involving the aorta. Those claims are not included in the fluoroquinolone MDL pending before Judge Tunheim.