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The U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal testosterone lawsuits has rejected calls by AbbVie to delay the Androgel bellwether schedule by several months, instead granting only six additional weeks to prepare cases for early trial dates.
There are currently more than 5,000 Androgel lawsuits, Axiron lawsuits, Testim lawsuits, Androderm lawsuits and other claims pending throughout the federal court system over side effects of testosterone replacement therapy, which allegedly caused men to suffer heart attacks, strokes, blood clots and other serious injuries.
Given the common questions of fact and law raised in the cases, complaints filed in U.S. District Courts nationwide are centralized for pretrial proceedings before U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly in the Northern District of Illinois, as part of an MDL or multidistrict litigation. The process is designed to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues in the cases, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different judges and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.
As part of the coordinated proceedings, Judge Kennelly previously established a “bellwether” process, where a small group of cases filed against AbbVie, the makers of Androgel, are being prepared for early trial dates, since that testosterone gel is the most widely used of the “low T” drug on the market.
A series of six cases were expected to go to trial between April and November 2017, which are designed to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the litigation.
While the outcomes of these trials are not binding on other claims, they will be closely watched by those involved in the litigatiion, as they may influence eventual negotiations to reach testosterone injury settlements and avoid the need for thousands of separate trials to be held in courts nationwide.
Earlier this month, AbbVie requested an extension of the Androgel bellwether trial schedule, indicating that an additional three to four months are needed to produce certain documents and testimony. The drug maker indicated that the long delay was needed due to the volume and timing of medical record collection, as well as the growing scope of sales representative discovery and difficulties coordinating deposition dates with many plaintiffs’ doctors.
In a case management order (PDF) issued on April 22, Judge Kennelly rejected that request, granting only a six week extension to the bellwether schedule.
“At this point, the Court is concerned about, among other things, the impact on the remainder of the MDL proceeding and on coordination with state court litigation that would result from an extension of the length proposed by AbbVie,” the judge wrote. “The Court also notes that it has, as of yesterday’s date, excluded six cases from the AbbVie bellwether pool, which represents nearly twenty percent of the pool. This will significantly reduce the discovery burden on both sides.”
Judge Kennelly also noted that the Court will select only eight bellwether trial cases, as opposed to the original 12 contemplated by the parties, which should also help ease the burden of preparing the cases for trial. Barring an unforeseeable event, Judge Kennelly indicates that there will be no further delays granted, suggesting that the first cases will remain on track to go before juries before Summer 2017.
Following these bellwether Androgel trial dates, a second series of trials are expected to be scheduled involving other “low T” drugs. Therefore, any further delays in the discovery and bellwether process will also have an impact on claims involving use of Axiron, Testim, Androderm or other testosterone drugs.