U.S. JPML Again Rejects Centralization Request for Withdrawal Lawsuits over Cymbalta

A panel of federal judges has once again rejected a motion seeking to establish consolidated pretrial proceedings for all Cymbalta lawsuits filed by individuals who allege they suffered withdrawal problems following use of the antidepressant.

In an order (PDF) issued on Friday, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) denied a request to transfer all withdrawal lawsuits over Cymbalta to one judge for coordinated pretrial proceedings.

This is the second time the panel has declined to create a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) for the cases, meaning that at least 41 lawsuits filed on behalf of more than 249 plaintiffs will proceed in various different U.S. District Courts without formal coordination.

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In December 2014, the panel rejected a similar request to establish a Cymblata MDL for all withdrawal cases, indicating that there were too few lawsuits filed at that time. However, despite an increase in the number of complaints filed over the past year, the panel was still not convinced that centralized management was necessary

During oral arguments presented on October 1, plaintiffs argued that the Cymbalta cases should be centralized before one judge to reduce the risk of duplicative discovery into common issues in the cases, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different courts and to generally serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the judicial system.

The U.S. JPML indicates that there has been no “significant change in circumstances” to warrant consolidation at this time, finding that informal coordination among the limited number of unique lawyers involved in the lawsuits remains practicable.

“All the factors that weighed against centralization [in December 2014] still are present today,” the panel noted. “These 41 cases are at substantially different procedural stages.”

The panel indicates that common discovery has advanced even further since the original decision to deny the requested centralization, pointing out that the drug maker has said this common discovery will be made available to all plaintiffs.

At least one Cymbalta withdrawal lawsuit has already gone before a jury, with a trial over the summer in the U.S District Court for the Central District of California ending in a defense verdict.

Cymbalta Withdrawal Side Effects

Cymbalta (duloxetine) was approved by the FDA in 2004, for the treatment of depression. It is part of a family of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which have been linked to symptoms of withdrawal since at least 2001.

According to a 2012 report by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP), early clinical studies have shown that about half of patients who abruptly discontinued use of Cymbalta suffered withdrawal symptoms. About 10% of those cases involved severe problems and more than half of the cases involved side effects that lasted longer than a week or two.

Instead of providing clear information about the risk of serious and potentially severe withdrawal symptoms with Cymbalta, plaintiffs in the lawsuit allege that the medication guide and label provided with the drug provided only a very vague warning.

ISMP called the warning “materially deficient,” pointing out that it does not tell patients what to be concerned about, how many patients could be affected, how severe the symptoms could be, and does not tell them the best way of quitting Cymbalta.

Eli Lilly told the ISMP that they referred patients to their doctors and pharmacists, but the independent group noted that the information given to doctors did not include withdrawal problems as something to discuss with their patients.

Plaintiffs allege that they may have avoided serious injury if the drug maker had provided adequate warnings about the potential side effects of Cymbalta.


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