Consolidation of Chantix Recall Lawsuits to Be Considered By JPML in December
The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) will consider oral arguments over the consolidation of all Chantix recall lawsuits during a hearing session in December 2022, and determine whether claims brought throughout the federal court system over cancer-causing chemicals that contaminated the popular stop-smoking judge should be centralized before one judge for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.
Chantix (varenicline) was introduced by Pfizer in 2006, as a prescription medication designed to help people quit smoking. However, problems with Chantix began to surface last year, when it was discovered that pills may contain dangerous levels of nitrosamines, which are believed to be a byproduct of the drug manufacturing process and may expose users to a risk of cancer.
Between June and September 2021, Pfizer announced a series of Chantix recalls, starting with limited batches of the medication sold, and later expanding the recall to include all lots of Chantix 0.5 mg and 1 mg tablets, all due to the same problems with high levels of the cancer-causing chemicals being detected in pills.
As a result of the recalls, multiple Chantix lawsuits have been filed against Pfizer, seeking class action status to pursue damages for consumers who paid for the expensive smoking cessation drug, which was adulterated and unfit for its intended purpose.
Motion to Centralize Cases in a New Chantix MDL
In August, the County of Monmouth, New Jersey filed a motion seeking to consolidate all Chantix lawsuits in an MDL, or multidistrict ligitation, indicating common questions of fact and law raised in complaints filed against Pfizer, Inc. throughout the federal court system should be centralized in the District of New Jersey to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues and avoid conflicting pretrial rulings.
The motion indicated there are at least eight nearly identical Chantix class action lawsuits awaiting pretrial discovery in separate federal courts, each raising similar questions about whether Pfizer’s Chantix medications that were adulterated or defective due to the presence of nitrosamine contamination.
The County further petitioned the JPML to transfer the cases to the District of New Jersey, claiming this venue is proper and is where Pfizer has admitted multiple witnesses are located. The motion states little would be gained by consolidating the cases in New York, where Pfizer’s headquarters are located, since the medication was largely tested and manufactured oversees in Ireland and Germany.
Pfizer filed a response in opposition to consolidation (PDF) on September 22, indicating there were too few cases to justify centralization proceedings in a Chantix MDL, but argued that if the panel did determine that consolidation was appropriate, the litigation should be managed out of the Southern District of New York.
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On October 13, the JPML issued a Notice of Hearing Session (PDF) indicating it will hear oral arguments over the Chantix lawsuit consolidation proposal on December 1 in the Daniel Patrick Moynihan U.S. Courthouse in New York, New York.
In complex product liability litigation, where a large number of claims are filed throughout the federal court system by individuals who suffered similar injuries as a result of the same or similar products, it is common for the federal court system to centralize the litigation for pretrial proceedings.
The request to consolidate the Chantix lawsuits comes after the JPML has formed several other coordinated proceedings for Zantac lawsuits and valsartan lawsuits filed over the same chemical impurities that contaminated the popular heartburn and blood pressure drugs.
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