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Viagra Melanoma Lawyers to Meet with MDL Judge for Initial Status Conference

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Attorneys involved in federal Viagra melanoma lawsuits are scheduled to meet next month with the U.S. District Judge recently appointed to preside over the litigation for an initial status conference, at which time the organizational structure of the growing litigation will be handled.

There are currently at least 30 product liability lawsuits pending against Pfizer in U.S. District Courts nationwide, each involving similar allegations that the drug maker failed to adequately warn men about the risk of melanoma associated with side effects of Viagra.

As Viagra lawyers continue to review and file claims for men diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer nationwide, it is ultimately expected that the drug maker will face hundreds, if not thousands, of claims throughout the United States.

Since the complaints raise similar questions of fact and law, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation established coordinated pretrial proceedings last month, centralizing all claims before U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg in the Northern District of California, to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues in the cases, avoid conflicting rulings from different courts and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and judicial system.

Judge Seeborg has scheduled an initial status conference in the Viagra MDL, or multi-district litigation, which will be held on June 15. Both sides have already sibmitted statements and proposed agendas for items to be covered during this first meeting.

According to a proposed joint agenda by plaintiffs (PDF), the conference should involve discussions about an attorney leadership structure, which would involve the appointment of certain lawyers to take actions for all plaintiffs during the coordinated proceedings. In addition, the plaintiffs indicate that the meeting should include an update on the status of the litigation that was previously pending nationwide, the establishment of confidentiality agreements and protective orders, and the creation of a Master Consolidated Complaint and Short Form Complaint, which will streamline the process for bringing new Viagra melanoma cases in the future.

The Defendants’ position statement (PDF) submitted for the initial case management conference focuses on trying to persuade the court that the lawsuits are without merit, arguing that there is no evidence linking Viagra and melanoma. The drug maker indicates that the question of general causation will be a critical threshold in the litigation, indicating that addressing this issue early in the proceedings will streamline the litigation, if not dispose of it entirely.

“Given the scientific record here, Pfizer respectfully suggests that it is in the best interests of all parties to conduct an initial phase of fact discovery limited to the issue of general causation, to be followed by expert reports and appropriate [challenges to the admissibility of evidence] directed to that issue,” wrote the drug maker in the submission. “The parties plan to formally meet and confer before June 15 to determine whether they can agree on the scope of, and schedule for, an initial phase of general causation discovery to propose to the Court or, alternatively, if they are unable to agree, will so advise the Court at the June 15 conference and request that the Court decide the issue after further briefing.”

The drug maker also notes that the litigation is likely to quickly grow in size, noting that there are already more than 100 additional cases pending in federal courts nationwide that will be transferred into the Viagra MDL.

Viagra Melanoma Side Effects

Viagra (sildenafil citrate) was introduced by Pfizer in 1998, and it has become one of the most widely recognized brand-name medications on the market in the United States, used by millions of men to treat impotence and sexual dysfunction, including the inability to develop or maintain an erection.

Since its approval, Viagra has been prescribed to an estimated 35 million men, and is generally considered safe by most consumers. However, recent studies suggest that the medication may reduce the body’s ability to resist the spread of melanoma.

The Viagra skin cancer litigation began to emerge after a study was published in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine in April 2014, in which researchers from Harvard Medical School found that men who took Viagra were 84% more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma than men who do not use the drug.

Plaintiffs allege that Pfizer knew or should have known about the link between Viagra and melanoma for years before this, indicating that studies published as early as 2011 suggested that the erectile dysfunction drug may promote melanoma cell invasion. Another study published in the Journal of Cell Biochemistry in 2012 also found that PDE5 inhibitors like Viagra could exacerbate melanoma development.

The American Cancer Society indicates that melanoma is diagnosed in about 69,000 Americans each year and causes about 8,650 deaths annually. The skin cancer usually manifests as unusual moles or patches of skin. While it is often curable if caught early, once melanoma has spread beyond the skin and local lymph nodes, treatment is difficult and it may ultimately result in death.

As part of the coordinated pretrial proceedings before Judge Seeborg, it is expected that a small group of representative Viagra lawsuits will be selected for a series of “bellwether” trials, which are designed to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be presented throughout the claims.

While the outcomes of these cases will not be binding on other claims, they may influence eventual negotiations with Pfizer to reach Viagra melanoma settlements. However, if the drug maker fails to settle or resolve the litigation following the MDL proceedings, each case may be remanded back to the U.S. District Court where it was originally filed for a separate trial date.

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