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A panel of federal judges has agreed to consolidate all Elmiron lawsuits, centralizing the litigation over retinal injuries before one judge in New Jersey for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.
There are currently about 100 product liability cases filed in U.S. District Courts nationwide against Johnson & Johnson and its Janssen Pharmaceuticals subsidiary, each raising similar allegations that the drug makers failed to warn that side effects of Elmiron may cause permanent retinal damage, known as pigmentary maculopathy.
Elmiron (pentosan polysulfate sodium or PPS) was introduced for treatment of interstitial cystitis in 1996, and is the only oral medication for individuals suffering from the condition, which is commonly referred to as “painful bladder syndrome”. Since there is no cure for the underlying pain caused by interstitial cystitis, most users remain on the medications for years. However, it has recently been discovered that this may cause users to suffer severe retinal injuries and permanent vision problems, including difficulty adapting in dark light, spots or floaters and blindness.
In September, a group of plaintiffs who filed early cases brought a motion with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML), seeking to create an Elmiron multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey under U.S. District Judge Brian R. Martinotti, to avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different courts, reduce duplicative discovery into common issues and serve the convenience of common witnesses, parties and the judicial system. Defendants agreed with the call for consolidation.
Following oral arguments heard by the JPML earlier this month, the panel issued a transfer order (PDF) on December 15, agreeing it was appropriate to centralize the cases and that Judge Martinotti’s court was the best venue for the discovery and pretrial proceedings.
“The actions involve common factual issues concerning the propensity of Elmiron to cause retinal injuries, notably atypical or pigmentary maculopathy,” the panel wrote. “This litigation likely will implicate complex scientific and regulatory issues.”
Centralizing cases into an MDL is common in complex pharmaceutical litigation, where large numbers of cases raise similar questions of fact and law.
There are currently at least 24 Elmiron cases pending before Judge Martinotti, with dozens of additional claims spread across at least 10 different federal district courts. However, as Elmiron lawyers continue to review and file claims in the coming months and years, it is expected several thousand additional claims may be brought in the coming months and years.
Following coordinated discovery before Judge Martinotti, it is expected that a series of representative cases will be set for early “bellwether” trials, to gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the claims. However, if Elimiron settlements or another resolution for the litigation is not reached in the MDL, Judge Martinotti may later return the cases back to U.S. District Courts nationwide for individual trial dates in the future.