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The U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal testosterone drug lawsuits has agreed to appoint 33 different attorneys to serve in various leadership in the litigation, given the size and scope of the cases.
In June, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) established coordinated pretrial proceedings in the federal court system for all product liability lawsuits filed over side effects of testosterone replacement therapy, regardless of which specific medication used or drug maker involved.
Cases involving at least six different pharmaceutical companies have all been centralized before U.S. District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly in the Eastern District of Illinois, to reduce duplicative discovery, avoid conflicting rulings from different judges and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.
All of the complaints involve similar allegations that the drug makers failed to adequately warn about the risk of heart attacks, strokes, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), pulmonary embolism or other injuries associated popular “low T” drugs, such as Androgel, Testim, Axiron, Androderm, Depo-Testosterone and other similar medications.
After a large number of testosterone injury attorneys applied for leadership roles in the litigation, Judge Kennelly scheduled a hearing last week to consider the proposals.
In an order (PDF) issued on August 1, Judge Kennelly agreed to appoint 32 different plaintiffs’ lawyers to serve in various leadership roles, including three Co-Lead Counsel, seven members of an Executive Committee, 20 members of a Steering Committee and two Co-Liaison counsel.
“This is a significantly larger group than in the ‘typical’ product liability multi-district litigation proceeding,” wrote Judge Kennelly in the order explaining the decision. “Counsel have, however, made a reasonable argument that this is not the typical MDL proceeding, largely in view of the fact that it involves claims against six different defendants for different product forms. Some pretrial matters will involve issues common to all six defendants, but some will involve issues that are defendant-specific.”
Judge Kennelly has indicated that Plaintiffs’ Co-Lead Counsel must submit a proposed order by the end of this week, outlining the division of responsibilities by the leadership group, which will take actions during discovery and pretrial proceedings that benefit all plaintiffs who have presented claims.
Testosterone Drug Lawsuits
As of July 15, at least 156 product liability lawsuits have been centralized before Judge Kennelly as part of the federal Testosterone MDL (Multidistrict Litigation). However, it is ultimately expected that thousands of AndroGel lawsuits, Axiron lawsuits, Testim lawsuits, AndroDerm lawsuits and other claims over testosterone drugs will be filed in the coming months and years.
Most of the complaints have been filed since an FDA announcement issued on January 31, which indicated that the agency is reviewing the cardiovascular risks among men taking any approved testosterone drugs. The FDA investigation was launched following several studies published in recent months involving the link between low testosterone drugs and heart attacks.
In November 2013, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggested side effects of testosterone may increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and death among older men with certain pre-existing heart problems.
This research was followed by a study published by the medical journal PLOSOne in January 2014, which found that low testosterone treatments may double the risk of heart attack for younger men with heart disease and men over the age of 65, regardless of their prior heart conditions.
As part of the coordinated pretrial proceedings, it is expected that Judge Kennelly will eventually select a small number of cases to serve as “bellwether” lawsuits, which will be prepared for early trial dates to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to evidence and testimony that may be repeated throughout the litigation. While the outcome of these early trials would not be binding on other cases, they may influence eventual testosterone settlement negotiations.