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Defense Verdict Returned in Xarelto Jury Trial Over Bleeding Death

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A federal jury in New Orleans has returned a defense verdict in the second out of a series of Xarelto bellwether trials, marking the second successful defense by the makers of the controversial anticoagulant. 

The trial began late last month for a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of Sharyn Orr, who died in May 2015, after suffering bleeding problems that the family claimed could have been avoided if the drug makers had provided adequate warnings about the potential side effects of Xarelto.

Xarelto (rivaroxoaban) is part of a new generation of novel oral anticoagulants and was introduced in 2011, as an alternative to Coumadin (warfarin), which has been the go-to anti-clotting treatment for decades. However, more than 18,000 Xarelto lawsuits have ben filed against Bayer Healthcare and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, indicating that users suffered severe and uncontrollable bleeding events on the drug.

Given the similar questions of fact and law raised in the complaints, all federal cases are centralized before U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon in the Eastern District of Louisiana, as part of an MDL or multidistrict litigation.

As part of the coordinated discovery and MDL proceedings, Judge Fallon has selected a small group of representatives cases for a series of bellwether trials, which began last month and are expected to continue throughout the summer. While the outcomes of these bellwether trials is not binding on others in the litigation, they are being closely watched by lawyers involved in the cases, as they may help gauge how juries will respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be presented throughout various cases.

Last month, the first Xarelto jury trial ended in a defense verdict, after a jury found that Joseph Bourdreaux, Jr. failed to meet the necessary burden of proof.

In this latest trial, Orr’s family indicated that she suffered a stroke about a year after her doctor prescribed Xarelto to prevent blood clots due to atrial fibrillation. Plaintiffs alleged that her death was caused by a delay in surgery, since doctors were concerned the anticoagulant would cause her to bleed out.

Additional Xarelto trials are set to go before other juries, which will consider the individual facts of each case separately. The next bellwether case will begin later this month in Mississippi, followed by a fourth case set for trial in Texas in July.

Xarelto Bleeding Problems

After Xarelto was introduced as the second member of a new generation of oral anticoagulants, the drug makers aggressively promoted the medication as easier to use than warfarin. However, a large number of adverse event reports have been linked to bleeding problems with Xarelto, since many doctors were unable to control or stop bleeds once they developed.

While all blood thinners may cause bleeding, the side effects of warfarin can be quickly reversed with a widely known antidote. However, there was no Xarelto reversal agent when the drug was introduced, and plaintiffs allege that Bayer and Johnson & Johnson failed to adequately warn users and the medical community about the lack of an antidote, which led to severe and uncontrollable bleeds.

Similar allegations were raised in thousands of Pradaxa lawsuits filed several years ago, as that medication hit the market before Xarelto. However, the maker of that competing drug ultimately agreed to pay $650 million in Pradaxa settlements just before the first bellwether trials were set to begin, with an average of about $150,000 per claim.

As Xarelto bleeding lawyers continue to review potential cases for individuals prescribed the anticoagulant throughout the United States, the number of complaints has surpassed the number of claims involved in the Pradaxa litigation, as the drug has become more widely used in recent years.

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