All Darvon lawsuits and Darvocet lawsuits filed in federal district courts throughout the United States by users who suffered heart rhythm problems will be consolidated for pretrial proceedings as part of a multidistrict litigation, or MDL, which will be centralized in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky.
The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation issued an order establishing the Darvocet MDL on August 16, which will result in the transfer of at least 17 cases that have been filed so far. In addition, as Darvon and Darvocet lawyers continue to file new cases in federal courts across the country, they will be transfered to the Eastern District of Kentucky for coordinated handling before U.S District Judge Danny C. Reeves.
A petition to centralize the Darvocet litigation was originally filed in December 2010, just weeks after a recall was issued for all painkillers containing propoxyphene. After hearing oral arguments in March 2011, the MDL Panel scheduled additional arguments for July to allow manufacturers of generic Darvocet and Darvon equivalents to express their views on centralization.
Darvocet was a popular pain medication that combines acetaminophen with propoxyphene, the active ingredient in the similar painkiller Darvon. The drugs were sold by Eli Lilly for about 40 years before distribution rights for the name brand version of the drug were sold to AAIPharma in 2002, and it was subsequently purchased by Xanodyne Pharmaceuticals in 2005. Generic versions of the medications are also available from a number of different drug makers
In November 2010, a Darvon and Darvicet recall was announced after the FDA concluded that side effects of propoxyphene can cause significant changes to the electrical activity of the heart. The heart problems may increase the risk of heart arrythmias, myocardial infarction and sudden death. Both the brand name drugs and their generic equivalents were pulled from the market.
All of the lawsuits over Darvocet and Darvon allege that the drug makers failed to adequately warn consumers or the medical community about the risk of serious and potentially fatal heart rhythm problems.
Xanodyne and other defendant drug makers opposed consolidation of the litigation, arguing that much of the evidence and discovery in the cases will focus on the individual health of each plaintiff.
The panel disagreed, stating that the differences were not so great as to preclude the benefits of an MDL, and said that the transferee judge would be able to handle individual case differences while still streamlining and consolidating the discovery and pre-trial process.
“On the basis of the papers filed and hearing session held, we conclude that these actions do share factual issues as to whether (a) whether Darvocet, Darvon and other medications containing Propoxyphene were defectively designed and marketed, (2) which defendants manufactured, licensed or sold propoxyphene products during various times, and (3) whether defendants knew or should have known of the increased risk of cardiovascular injuries with these medications and failed to provide adequate warnings,” wrote Judge John Heyburn, chairman of the panel on multidistrict litigation, in an order issued this week.
Centralization of the Darvon and Darvocet lawsuits as part of an MDL will help reduce the burden of duplicative discovery in different cases, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different judges and serve the convenience of the parties, the attorneys and the courts. Although the cases will be consolidated for pretrial litigation, they remain individual lawsuits and if a Darvocet settlement agreement is not reached, each case may be remanded back to the federal district court where it was originally filed for trial.