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New Jersey’s Supreme Court has determined all Tasigna lawsuits filed throughout the state court system will be consolidated before one judge for coordinated pretrial proceedings.
Late last month, the Acting Administrative Director for New Jersey state courts issued a Notice to the Bar (PDF), announcing the centralization of Tasigna litigation that has been spread across several different counties in state, placing all of the product liability claims before Superior Court Judge Rachelle Harz in Bergen County.
Tasigna (nilotinib) was approved by the FDA in 2007, and is part of a class of drugs known as kinase inhibitors, which are prescribed for treatment of Philadelphia chromosome positive chronic myeloid leukemia (Ph+ CML) among recently diagnosed adults. It is also prescribed for the 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 a growing number of lawsuits filed over failure to adequately warn about the risk of blood flow problems from Tasigna, which may lead to artherosclerosis, a stroke, heart attack, amputations or death.
According to the request for transfer, there are currently at least 64 plaintiffs who filed their cases in New Jersey Superior Courts, each alleging they suffered injuries after taking the chronic myeloid leukemia drug.
The lawsuits raise common questions of fact and law, indicating that Novartis has intentionally concealed its knowledge about the drug’s risks, resulting in patients suffering heart attacks, strokes, peripheral vascular disease, and amputations.
Similar to multidistrict litigations (MDLs) used at the federal level, consolidating the cases as part of a New Jersey MCL involves transfer of 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.
A similar request for consolidation was made at the federal level in April, with plaintiffs calling for the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) to consolidate all claims brought in the federal court system before one judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.