Lawyers Seek Leadership Roles in Low T Drug Litigation

As a growing number of AndroGel lawsuits and other similar claims involving testosterone replacement therapy continue to be filed nationwide, plaintiffs’ lawyers are applying for leadership roles in the federal “low T” drug litigation.

Last week, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation established consolidated pretrial proceedings for all testosterone lawsuits filed in U.S. District Courts throughout the country, centralizing cases against various different low T drug manufacturers before U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly in the Northern District of Illinois.

In advance of an initial status conference in the testosterone MDL (multidistrict litigation), several attorneys representing plaintiffs in the proceedings have filed applications to serve on a Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee and in other leadership roles, which will take actions during discovery and pretrial proceedings that have a common benefit to all plaintiffs.

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All of the cases involve similar claims brought on behalf of men who allege that drug makers failed to adequately warn that side effects of low T drugs may increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), pulmonary embolism and sudden death.

There are already more than 100 product liability lawsuits pending against the makers of Androgel and other similar low T drugs, including Testim, Axiron, AndroDerm and others. However, it is ultimately expected that thousands of cases will be centralized before Judge Kennelly for coordinated pretrial proceedings, to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues, avoid conflicting rulings from different judges and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.

In a case management order (PDF) issued on June 12, Judge Kennelly indicated that he intends to appoint one or more attorneys to serve as plaintiffs’ lead counsel, liaison counsel and on a plaintiffs’ steering committee. These lawyers will be responsible for conducting common discovery in the low T drug litigation, presenting the position of all plaintiffs to the Court and defendants, as well as entering into any stipulations or settlement agreements as necessary during pretrial proceedings.

Judge Kennelly indicated that prior to the July 10 conference, the lawyers involved in the litigation should meet to determine if a consensus may be reached about which attorneys will serve in the various leadership roles.

A deadline of July 3 was established for any applications or nominations, and several attorneys have already filed documents requesting to serve on the plaintiffs’ steering committee or in other roles.

Low T Drug Problems

The litigation has come following recent studies that raised concerns about the potential risk of heart problems associated with low testosterone drugs.

In November 2013, a study published in JAMA suggested that side effects of low T treatments may increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and death among older men with certain pre-existing heart problems.

That research was followed by a study published in the medical journal PLOSOne in January 2014, which found that low T drugs may double the risk of heart attack for younger men with heart disease and men over the age of 65, regardless of their prior heart conditions.

In response to the findings, the FDA launched a safety review of all testosterone replacement therapy on January 31, indicating that it is re-assessing the warnings provided with the medication and whether additional regulatory actions are needed.

As the consolidated federal litigation moves forward, it is expected that Judge Kennelly will select a small group of cases to be prepared for early trial dates in the MDL, which are commonly referred to as “bellwether” cases. While the outcomes of these trials are not binding in other cases, they may help the parties gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that may be repeated throughout the litigation. The process would also be designed to facilitate possible low T settlements to avoid the need for hundreds of trials to be scheduled throughout the country.

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