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The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation has decided to consolidate all Eliquis lawsuits pending throughout the court system, as they each raise similar allegations about the risk of severe and uncontrollable bleeding linked to the controversial new-generation anticoagulant.
There are currently at least 34 product liability complaints pending in 13 different U.S. District Courts against Bristol-Myers Squibb Company and Pfizer, Inc., claiming that the drug makers withheld information about the bleeding risk and the lack of a safe reversal agent, which could have allowed doctors to treat hemorrhaging among users.
Eliquis is part of a new crop of oral anticoagulants introduced in recent years, known as factor xa medications, which also include the blockbuster treatments Xarelto and Pradaxa. The drugs have been aggressively marketed as a replacement for Coumadin (warfarin), which has been the go-to anticoagulation treatment for decades. However, unlike warfarin, these new drugs had no safe and effective antidote available when they were introduced, and a large number of bleeding problems with Eliquis, Xarelto and Pradaxa have been reported nationwide, often resulting in hospitalization or death.
Given the similar questions of fact and law presented in the cases, a group of plaintiffs filed a request to consolidate the Eliquis injury cases before one judge as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation. The centralized management is designed to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different courts and to serve the convenience of witnesses, parties and the courts.
Following oral arguments presented late last month, the U.S. JPML issued an order (PDF) on February 7, indicating that all pending and future cases will be transferred to U.S. District Judge Denise L. Cote in the Southern District of New York for pretrial proceedings.
“All the actions share common factual questions arising out of allegations that plaintiffs suffered severe bleeding and related injuries as a result of taking Eliquis (apixaban), that defendants did not conduct sufficient testing of the drug, and that defendants’ warnings and instructions as to the alleged risks, including the unavailability of a reversal agent to counteract bleeding, were inadequate,” the JPML ruled. “Issues concerning the design, testing, manufacture, regulatory approval, labeling, and marketing of Eliquis thus are common to all actions.”
Thousands of Xarelto lawsuits and Pradaxa lawsuits have already been filed against the makers of these competing, and more popular, anticoagulants. Separate multidistrict litiations (MDLs) have previously been established by the U.S. JPML for cases involving these other factor xa medications.
While a relatively small number of Eliquis cases have been filed to date, it is expected that the number of complaints will continue to increase in the coming weeks and months, likely involving hundreds, or even thousands, of cases involving severe bleeds or wrongful death.