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Although a number of low testosterone drug lawsuits have been filed in Pennsylvania state court, a judge recently rejected a request to establish “mass tort” proceedings in the state.
Earlier this week, Philadelphia Administrative Judge Jacqueline F. Allen denied a request to centralize all cases filed throughout the state over injuries allegedly caused by side effects of testosterone drugs, such as Androgel, Axiron, Testim and others.
Despite support from both plaintiffs and manufacturers of the popular “low T” drugs, the Court rejected the request to establish a mass tort litigation before one judge, which is designed to avoid duplicative discovery, prevent contradictory rulings and streamline the pretrial proceedings. However, no reasons were provided for the decision.
According to a report by The Legal Intelligencer, there are currently at least 31 cases pending in the state court system involving former users of low testosterone drugs who have suffered a heart attack, stroke, pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis or other cardiovascular injury.
The number of cases pending in Pennsylvania is only a small fraction of the litigation pending in the federal court system, where more than 5,000 Androgel lawsuits, Axiron lawsuits, Testim lawsuits, Androderm lawsuits and other complaints involving testosterone replacement replacement therapy have been centralized as part of a federal multidistrict litigation, or MDL.
Given the nearly identical allegations raised in the complaints, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) agreed to consolidate the federal cases for pretrial proceedings in June 2014, centralizing the claims before U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly in the Northern District of Illinois.
A state court “mass tort” in Pennsylvania is managed similar to a federal MDL, and the Pennsylvania court system has previously established such proceedings where large numbers of lawsuits are filed in the state involving similar injuries caused by the same medication.
Plaintiffs and defendants had argued that a Pennsylvania testosterone drug “mass tort” designation would have made it easier to coordinate the cases with the federal litigation. However, they acknowledged that the court might be moved to deny the petition, based on the relatively small number of cases filed to date in Pennsylvania state courts and large number of different drug makers involved in the litigation.
Testosterone Drug Litigation
Although “low T” drugs were originally introduced as a “niche” treatment for men suffering from testosterone insufficiency caused by hypogonadism or other medical conditions, amid aggressive “off-label” marketing by drug makers, the products have ballooned into a $2 billion industry, commonly prescribed for lifestyle reasons to increase stamina, sex drive or energy among aging men.
Litigation over the testosterone heart risks has emerged since November 2013, when a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that certain men who began taking testosterone drugs may be more likely to suffer a heart attack, stroke or sudden death.
That study was followed by additional research published in the medical journal PLoSOne in January 2014, which found that side effects of testosterone drugs may double the risk of heart attacks for men over the age of 65, regardless of their prior health condition, as well as double the risk for younger men with a prior history of heart disease.
In January 2015, another study published in the medical journal Pharmacotherapy found that first time testosterone users may be 40% more likely to have a heart attack when compared to men who did not use the drugs.
In response to the concerns, the FDA announced a warning label update for testosterone therapy in March 2015, indicating that new information would be added about the evidence of a link between testosterone drugs and heart problems. In addition, the agency encouraged doctors not to prescribe drugs for natural drops in testosterone associated with aging.
As part of the MDL proceedings before Judge Kennelly, a small group of testosterone injury lawsuits are currently being prepared for early trial dates. Known as bellwether cases, these trials are designed to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout a number of cases.
Following a series of bellwether trials in the MDL, if testosterone drug settlements are not reached by the drug manufacturers, hundreds of individual cases may be remanded back to U.S. District Courts throughout the country for individual trial dates.