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Eli Lilly appears to have reached a global settlement to resolve all testosterone drug lawsuits the company is facing, which include claims brought by men throughout the U.S. who have experienced heart attacks, blood clots and other health problems following use Axiron gel.
The announcement comes just weeks before the first of two bellwether trials involving Axiron claims were set to begin, avoiding the risk of a jury awarding massive damages over the company’s failure to warn consumers and the medical community about known risks associated with their popular drug.
For the past several years, Eli Lilly has been part of the consolidated federal litigation over side effects of testosterone replacement therapy, which includes more than 6,000 Axiron lawsuits, Androgel lawsuits, Testim lawsuits and other claims against the makers of similar medications.
Given common questions of fact and law raised by each plaintiff, the claims have been centralized before U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly in the Northern District of Illinois for coordinated discovery and management, as part of a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL).
As part of the consolidated management of the claims, Judge Kennelly has scheduled a series of early trial dates against each manufacturer, known as bellwether claims, since they are designed to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the cases.
While the first Axiron claim has yet to go before a jury, the first two Androgel trials against AbbVie resulted in massive damage awards for plaintiffs, including an award of $150 million in punitive damages in July 2017 and a verdict of $140 million in a second case in October 2017.
Additional claims are set to go before juries over the next year, with Axiron trial dates set to begin on January 29, 2018 and March 5, 2018.
According to a case management order (PDF) issued on December 21, all deadlines in those trial cases are now vacated, but the Court has reserved the right to set other claims against different drug makers for trial on either or both of those dates.
“[T]he Court has been advised by counsel for plaintiffs and counsel for defendant, Eli Lilly and Company, that they have reached a global settlement, including all filed cases,” according to the order issued by Judge Kennelly. “The parties have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding. Based on this report, the Court directs that all proceedings involving plaintiffs and Eli Lilly will be stayed for a period of 45 days so that the parties may devote their efforts to finalizing a Master Settlement Agreement.”
Terms of the Axiron settlement have not yet been disclosed, but the agreement may increase pressure on other drug makers to resolve claims.
If additional testosterone injury settlements are not reached following bellwether trials scheduled to begin next year, it is expected that large waves of cases will be prepared for trial, and claims may be remanded back to U.S. District Courts nationwide for simultaneous proceedings following the conclusion of all common discovery and pretrial proceedings in the MDL.