Reglan Suits Moving Forward in New Jersey State Court

The number of Reglan lawsuits filed in New Jersey state court has climbed to 70, and that number is expected to continue to increase as more complaints are filed in advance of the potential statute of limitations for many cases in February 2011.

All of the cases are filed on behalf of individuals who have been diagnosed with tardive dyskinesia from Reglan, or other movement disorders allegedly caused by the gastrointestinal drug.

In July 2010, the New Jersey Supreme Court centralized all Reglan suits filed throughout the state before Judge Carol Higbee in Atlantic County. The consolidated proceedings were ordered after a petition warned that there will likely be a flood of new cases filed in the state, which is the headquarters for Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, one of the primary defendants in the Reglan litigation.

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Centralization of the lawsuits is designed to avoid contradictory rulings and lessen the load on the rest of the state’s courts, so that only one court staff will have to become familiar with the complex issues in the case.

In an order issued last month, Judge Higbee asked attorneys involved in the cases to help the court create a database spreadsheet to better organize the growing number of Reglan suits in New Jersey state court. Judge Higbee said that a complete spreadsheet of organized information about the claims would help the court better handle the caseload.

According to a case list released November 27, 2010, there are 70 lawsuits over Reglan pending before Judge Higbee. However, the number of cases is expected to continue to grow over the next few months, as the potential Reglan statute of limitations in New Jersey approaches. February will mark the two year anniversary of the FDA’s decision to require manufacturers of Reglan and other metoclopramide-based drugs to add a “black box” warning about the risk of tardive dyskinesia.

Reglan, which is known generically as metoclopramide, is approved for short-term treatment of gastrointestinal disorders, such as diabetic gastroparesis, gastroesphageal reflux (GERD) and delayed gastric emptying. However, given the chronic persistent nature of those ailments, many doctors prescribed Reglan or generic equivalents for longer periods of time.

Side effects of Reglan use for longer than 12 weeks have been shown to increase the risk of tardive dyskinesia and other movement disorders. This can involve repetitive and involuntary movements, particularly involving the lower face and limbs. Symptoms of tardive dyskinesia can include grimacing, chewing, smacking of the lips, rapid eye movements and impaired finger movements. There is no known effective treatment for the disorder and the involuntary movements often become permanent, persisting even after use of Reglan has stopped.

The Reglan suits allege that the manufacturers failed to adequately research their medication and attempted to minimize the risk of tardive dyskinesia from Reglan.

In addition to the state court Reglan cases pending in New Jersey, there are a number of suits pending in federal courts throughout the country. Last year, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation declined to centralize the federal litigation over Reglan, citing the number of different generic drug makers and the long history of lawsuits involving this drug. Therefore, all of the federal lawsuits are proceeding as individual claims in different courts, with different judges and scheduling orders.

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