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Viagra Attorneys Appointed to Leadership Roles in MDL for Melanoma Lawsuits

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As a growing number of Viagra melanoma lawsuits continue to be added to the recently established federal multidistrict litigation (MDL), a small group of plaintiffs’ attorneys have been appointed to serve in leadership roles during the coordinated pretrial proceedings, taking certain actions that will benefit all men who have filed claims. 

In April, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) ordered that all complaints filed throughout the federal court system involving allegations that men developed melanoma from side effects of Viagra will be centralized 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 pretrial rulings from different Courts and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the judicial system.

At least 36 cases are currently pending in the Viagra MDL, but it is ultimately expected that hundreds, if not thousands, of complaints will be included in the consolidated pretrial proceedings as Viagra injury attorneys continue to review and file claims for individuals throughout the U.S.

In an MDL order (PDF) issued this week, Judge Seeborg identified a group of 15 different plaintiffs’ lawyers who will serve in various leadership roles, including one Lead Counsel, one Liaison Counsel, five members of a Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee (PEC), seven members of a Plaintiffs Steering Committee (PSC) and one state court liaison counsel.

In complex pharmaceutical litigation, where a large number of individual claims have been filed on behalf of individuals who suffered similar injuries after using the same or similar medications, it is common for a small group of attorneys to conduct and coordinate the common discovery into generic issues that apply to all claims, argue motions before the Court and negotiate potential stipulations or settlements in the cases.

Each of the claims pending in the MDL before Judge Seeborg involve similar allegations, indicating that Pfizer failed to adequately warn about a link between Viagra and melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer that has been reported among many users of the popular erectile dysfunction drug.

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 Viagra cancer risk for years, 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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