Motion Seeks To Consolidate Tasigna Atherosclerosis Lawsuits In Federal Court System

With a growing number of lawsuits being filed in the federal court system on behalf of individuals who have experienced atherosclerosis-related side effects from Tasigna, leading to narrowing and hardening of arteries that deliver blood to the arms, legs, heart and brain, a request has been filed to consolidate the claims before one U.S. District Judge for coordinated pretrial proceedings.

Tasigna (nilotinib) was approved by the FDA in 2007, and is part of a class of medications known as kinase inhibitors, which are prescribed for treatment of Philadelphia chromosome positive chronic myeloid leukemia (Ph+ CML) among recently diagnosed adults. It is marketed by Novartis for treatment of chronic phase and accelerated phase Ph+ CML in adults who are resistant or intolerant to prior therapy.

While the drug currently carries a “black box” warning about the risk of QT prolongation, which is a heart rhythm problem that can result in sudden death, Novartis faces product liability lawsuits for failing to adequately warn about the risk of Tasigna blood flow problems, which may lead to artherosclerosis, a stroke, heart attack, amputations or death.

Currently, there are at least 18 Tasigna lawsuits pending in 12 different U.S. District Courts, each raising similar claims and allegations. However, as lawyers continue to review and file claims in the coming weeks, that number is expected to increase significantly.

On April 14, one of the early plaintiffs, Allen Garland, filed a motion for transfer (PDF) with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML), calling for all of the lawsuits to be centralized in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois for coordinated discovery and pretrial management.

Known as an MDL, or multidistrict litigation, such centralization is common in complex product liability litigation, where a large number of claims are being filed in courts nationwide over the similar injuries caused by the same product defects. Coordinating the cases before one judge is intended to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings and serve the convenience of common witnesses, parties and the judicial system.

“Plaintiffs are people (or their wrongful death beneficiaries) who have been diagnosed with atherosclerotic-related injuries – including peripheral vascular disease, peripheral artery disease, and cardiovascular disease – resulting in heart attacks, limb amputations, and strokes as a result of using Tasigna,” the motion states. “Each of the pending federal cases presents a common core set of facts, in that each alleges: (1) that Plaintiffs suffered atherosclerotic-related injuries after using Tasigna; (2) that Novartis failed to timely and adequately warn of this potential injury; (3) injuries and damages arising from Novartis’ wrongful conduct; and (4) the same or similar conduct by Novartis.”

It is expected that the U.S. JPML will schedule oral arguments on the motion in July 2021, at which time the size of the litigation is expected to involve even more cases. The panel of federal judges will determine whether it is appropriate to transfer the Tasigna litigation to one judge, and evaluate the most appropriate forum for the management of the litigation.

If an MDL is established, cases filed in U.S. District Courts nationwide will be transferred to one court for management, and series of early “bellwether” trials designed to help gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence that will be repeated throughout the litigation. However, if Tasigna settlements or another resolution is not reached following the MDL proceedings, each individual case may later be returned to the U.S. District Court where it was originally filed for a separate trial in the future.

In February,  plaintiffs petitioned the New Jersey Supreme Court to consolidate and centralize state-filed Tasigna litigation before one judge for pretrial proceedings, as part of a New Jersey multi-county litigation (MCL).

Similar to multidistrict litigations (MDLs) used at the federal level, consolidating the cases as part of a New Jersey MCL would transfer claims pending throughout the state to one judge for all pretrial proceedings. While each lawsuit remains an individual case, the Court will coordinate discovery into common issues in the claims and likely schedule a series of early “bellwether” trials to help the parties gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the litigation.

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