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Unless agreements are reached to resolve Androgel cases filed by thousands of men who claim they have suffered heart attacks, strokes and other injuries following use of the testosterone gel, AbbVie will face 21 different bellwether trials over the next year, with at least 19 cases set to begin between October 2018 and March 2019.
There are currently more than 6,500 product liability lawsuits filed against AbbVie and pharmaceutical companies in the federal court system, each raising similar allegations that the drug makers failed to adequately warn about the side effects of the testosterone treatments, which plaitiffs also claim were widely over-marketed to men without any real medical need.
Most of the cases involve the use of AbbVie’s Androgel, which was the most aggressively marketed and widely used “low T” treatment. While claims have also been filed against the makers of competing products, such as Testim, Axiron and Androderm, several other manufacturers have already reached settlements that are designed to resolve all cases involving their products. However, AbbVie has refused to negotiate similar agreements so far, resulting in an aggressive bellwether trial schedule over the next year.
In an order (PDF) issued on April 19, U.S District Judge Matthew Kennelly, who is presiding over the centralized testosterone litigation in the Northern District of Illinois, outlined a schedule for nineteen trials that will begin between October 2, 2018 and March 4, 2019, which will be presided over by 12 different U.S. District Judges.
These cases will start after Androgel bellwether trials already set to begin in May 2018 and June 2018 against AbbVie, as well as an August 2018 trial against Actavis over their Androderm product.
The additional bellwether trials will involve claims selected from two different groups of cases that are being prepared to be trial ready by September 2018 and December 2018.
“The Court has previously advised counsel that other judges in this district have volunteered to assist this Court by trying cases arising from the MDL during the fall/winter 2018-2019 and spring 2019 time frame,” the order states. “The Court has identified the other judges to the plaintiffs’ steering committee and counsel for AbbVie. Both sides have agreed that cases from the MDL may be tried before these judges.”
Judge Kennelly indicates that each case can reasonably be tried within a two week period, allowing ten trial days, but the drug maker will face several simultaneous and overlapping trials to achieve the bellwether schedule.
An initial series of earlier Androgel trials have already resulted in several large verdicts. In October 2017, a jury awarded $140 million in damages to a man who suffered a heart attack on Androgel, and last month another jury awarded $3.2 million, after an initial verdict of $150 million was overturned on post-trial motions.
While the outcomes of these bellwether trials are not binding on other plaintiffs, they are being closely watched and may have a significant influence on eventual testosterone settlements that may avoid the need thousands of individual cases to go to trial nationwide.
Judge Kennelly is scheduled to meet with the parties for the next joint management conference tomorrow.