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Tepezza Lawsuits Over Hearing Loss Consolidated in Federal MDL Before Illinois Judge
A panel of federal judges has determined that all Tepezza lawsuits over hearing loss brought throughout the federal court system will be consolidated for pretrial proceedings before one U.S. District Judge in Illinois, as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation.
Tepezza (teprotumumab-trbw) is a new-generation biologic treatment introduced by Horizon Therapeutics in January 2020, as the first medication approved to treat thyroid eye disease or bulging eyes, which is caused by hyperthyroidism and linked to Graves’ disease, resulting in inflammation of eye muscles, eyelids, tear glands and fatty tissues behind the eye.
Although Tepezza infusions were originally intended as a niche treatment, with only a limited market, during the second year the drug was on the market in the United States sales doubled to $1.66 billion, and critics have expressed concern that Tepezza was aggressively marketed without adequately disclosing all of the potential risks.
Hundreds of former users are now coming forward to report that they experienced various forms of hearing loss side effects from Tepezza, including persistent ringing in the ears known as tinnitus, and complete hearing loss. In many cases, the problems persist long after the thyroid eye disease treatments, leaving users with irreversible hearing damage.
Given similar questions of fact and law raised in complaints filed in U.S. District Courts nationwide, a group of plaintiffs filed a motion to establish a Tepezza MDL for all hearing loss lawsuits earlier this year, asking that claims brought throughout the federal court system be transferred to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.
The manufacturer, however, opposed Tepezza lawsuit centralization, arguing that there were few cases to warrant formal consolidation.
Tepezza Lawsuit MDL Formed
Following oral arguments heard late last month, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) issued a transfer order (PDF) on June 2, indicating that the Tepezza lawsuits will be consolidated before U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin in the Northern District of Illinois for coordinated pretrial proceedings.
In complex pharmaceutical litigation, where large numbers of claims are brought by users of the same medication or medical product, each experiencing the same or similar injuries, it is common for the U.S. JPML to centralize the litigation to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues that will arise in all claims, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings and to serve the convenience of certain witnesses and parties who will be required to testify in each of the lawsuits.
According to the JPML, there are currently 18 Tepezza hearing loss lawsuits filed in five different districts, in addition to another 19 potentially related actions. However, as Tepezza hearing loss lawyers continue to review and file claims over the coming weeks and months, the size of the litigation is expected to continue to grow significantly.
“After considering the argument of counsel, we find that centralization of these actions in the Northern District of Illinois will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the just and efficient conduct of the litigation,” the JPML wrote. “All actions can be expected to share factual questions arising from the alleged propensity of the biologic drug Tepezza, which treats thyroid eye disease, to cause severe or permanent hearing loss and tinnitus.”
As part of the coordinated management of the Tepezza MDL, it is expected that Judge Durkin will establish a “bellwether” program, where a small group of representative cases are prepared for early trial dates, to help the parties gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout various cases in the litigation.
If no Tepezza settlement agreement or other resolution is reached during the MDL pretrial proceedings, each individual claim may later be remanded back to the U.S. District Court where it was originally filed for trial.
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