All Plavix lawsuits filed in New Jersey state courts have been centralized before one judge for pretrial proceedings, but the cases will not be given a mass tort designation.
According to an order issued last month by the Supreme Court of New Jersey, all lawsuits filed throughout the state involving the blockbuster blood thinner Plavix will be transferred to Superior Court Judge Jessica R. Mayer in Middlesex for centralized case management.
All of the Plavix suits allege that the drug makers, Bristol Myers Squibb Co. and Sanofi-Aventis, failed to adequately research their medication or warn about the risk of Plavix side effects, which could increase the risk of serious and potentially life-threatening injuries.
In a motion filed in April 2011, the drug makers requested mass tort designation for the Plavix litigation, which would have consolidated pretrial discovery and motions. However, the Court opted to simply have the cases centralized before Judge Mayer, without mass tort treatment. This is still expected to reduce the chance of conflicting motions and rulings that could occur if the cases were being handled by a number of different judges throughout the state.
At the time the Bristol Myers Squibb and Sanofi-Aventis filed their request, the drug makers indicated that more than 40 people had filed a Plavix lawsuit in courts throughout the United States, including at least five in Atlantic County, New Jersey. However, Plavix lawyers investigating claims for individuals who have suffered an injury have suggested that hundreds, or even thousands, of cases are likely to be filed in New Jersey state court, where Sanofi-Aventis is headquartered and Bristol Myers Squibb has five facilities.
According to an initial order issued by Judge Mayer, the first case management conference will be held August 16, at which time attorneys involved in the litigation are expected to bring a list of all cases pending in state or federal courts, indicating the status of discovery and any potential Plavix settlement discussions that have occurred to date.
Plavix (clopidogrel) is a blood thinner that prevents blood platelets from sticking together to form clots. It is often prescribed to prevent heart attacks, strokes and blood clotting when drug coated stents are used in patients with arteriosclerosis and in other at-risk patients. It is a blockbuster medication, generating more than $6.5 billion in U.S. sales for Bristol Myers Squibb Co. and Sanofi-Aventis in 2010.
Many of the complaints filed so far allege that the makers of Plavix promoted promoted the expensive medication as a safer alternative to aspirin, although it may actually provide no benefit over taking a four-cent-a-day aspirin. Plaintiffs allege that they suffered injuries as a result of their unnecessary use of Plavix, such as gastrointestinal bleeding, severe ulcers, heart attacks, strokes and a rare blood disorder known as TTP, or thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpora.
Plaintiffs say that the two companies repeatedly overstated the safety and effectiveness of Plavix, and point out that the companies were repeatedly cited by the FDA for illegal, off-label promotions and for ads and campaigns that touted its benefits over aspirin and how safe it was for the stomach; both claims that the FDA said were unproven, and that several scientific studies brought into doubt.