Federal and State Judges to Hold Joint Hearing in Digitek Recall Lawsuits

The judges presiding over hundreds of Digitek recall lawsuits in federal court and various states will hold a joint hearing next year to review the scientific evidence in the cases, which involve allegations that extra-strength pills caused users throughout the United States to suffer severe and sometimes fatal heart problems in 2008.

According to a Pretrial Order issued last week by Chief Judge Joseph R. Goodwin, of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, a joint hearing with state judicial officers presiding over certain consolidated Digitek lawsuits will be held on October 13 and 14, 2010. The joint hearing will address the scientific and technical issues presented in this litigation, though each judge will give a separate ruling as they relate to their consolidated cases.

Judge Goodwin is presiding over the consolidated federal Digitek litigation, which has been centralized in a multidistrict litigation (MDL) for pretrial proceedings. State court judges who will sit jointly with Judge Goodwin at the hearing will be Judge Sandra Moss of Pennsylvania, Judge Brian Martinotti of New Jersey, Judge Alan Moats of West Virginia and Judge Buddie Hahn of Texas.

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Digitek is a generic version of the drug digoxin, used to treat congestive heart failure, abnormal heart rhythms, atrial flutter and atrial fibrillation. The medication is extremely dose-specific with a narrow therapeutic index. If too little of drug is prescribed it can be ineffective, and if too much is prescribed it can lead to a Digitek overdose, where the drug builds up in the system. This can result in a serious and potentially life-threatening condition known as digitalis toxicity.

In April 2008, Actavis Totowa issued a Digitek recall for all lots of the heart drug after it was discovered that some tablets may have been commercially released that were twice as thick as they were supposed to be. The error potentially exposed thousands of users to a risk of digoxin overdose or poisoning.

According to a December 2008 report released by the non-profit Center for Public Justice, at least 667 Digitek overdose deaths throughout the United States were reported to the FDA between April 2008 and June 2008.

Hundreds of lawsuits over the Digitek recall in various state and federal courts throughout the United States. All federal cases are centralized before Judge Goodwin, and state court lawsuits in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, West Virginia and Texas have also been consolidated for coordinated pretrial litigation.

All of the claims involve allegations that the plaintiffs were injured after receiving recalled Digitek tablets that contained more of the medication than they were supposed to. As a result, the plaintiffs claim that they suffered digitalis toxicity, which could result in arrhythmias, heart failure or death.

Late last month, Judge Goodwin selected five Digitek lawsuits for early trials in the federal MDL. These cases will serve as “bellwether” trials, designed to gauge how juries will respond to evidence presented throughout the litigation. No trial dates have been set in those cases.


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