Elmiron Vision Loss Lawsuits Consolidated in New Jersey Multicounty Litigation

Lawsuits alleging drug makers failed to warn about link between Elmiron and vision problems will be consolidated before a New Jersey state court judge for pretrial proceedings.

New Jersey’s Supreme Court has determined all Elmiron vision loss lawsuits filed throughout the state court system should be consolidated before one judge for coordinated pretrial proceedings.

Johnson & Johnson and it’s Janssen subsidiary face a number of lawsuits over Elmiron in New Jersey, where the manufacturers’ U.S. headquarters are located, each raising similar allegations that warnings were withheld from users and the medical community about the vision risks associated with the bladder pain drug.

Elmiron (pentosan polysulfate sodium or PPS) has been marketed as a safe and effective treatment for interstitial cystitis for decades, although case reports and studies had found an alarming number of users experiencing vision loss associated with a rare type of eye damage, known as pigmentary maculopathy.

The first warnings about the link between Elmiron and retinal maculopathy were not added to the drug label until 2020, leading many users to continue taking the medication for years after they developed signs or symptoms of vision side effects, further worsening the permanent damage to the retina.

Amid a growing number of complaints being filed throughout the New Jersey state court system, Acting Administrative Director Glenn A. Grant announced in October that a group of plaintiffs had filed a motion with the New Jersey Supreme Court, seeking to establish a multi-county litigation (MCL) for all Elmiron cases, asking for all current and future claims to be centralized before one New Jersey judge for coordinated pretrial proceedings.

In a Notice to the Bar (PDF) issued on February 10, Grant announced that the Supreme Court approved the creation of an Elmiron MCL in that state, and assigned the cases to Superior Court Judge Rachelle Harz in Bergen County.

Similar to multidistrict litigations (MDLs) used at the federal level, consolidating the cases as part of a New Jersey MCL involves transfer of claims pending throughout the state to one judge for coordinated discovery into common issues in the claims, and a series of early “bellwether” trials, which are designed to help the parties gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the litigation.

In the federal court system, the Elmiron litigation has been consolidated before U.S. District Judge Brian R. Martinotti in the District of New Jersey, where the parties are expected to prepare a group of cases for early trials beginning in 2023.

While the outcome of these bellwether trials will not have any binding effect on other plaintiffs, they are expected to influence the amount of any Elmiron settlements for vision impairment Johnson & Johnson may later offer to avoid the need for each individual claims to be scheduled for trial.

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