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Viagra Melanoma Case Filing Procedure to Involve Master and Short Form Complaint in MDL

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The U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal Viagra melanoma lawsuits has approved procedures designed to stream line the filing of new cases in the federal multidistrict litigation (MDL), allowing plaintiffs to file a Short Form Complaint, which adopts certain allegations and claims outlined in a Master Long Form Complaint. 

Amid a growing number of Viagra cases filed throughout the federal court system, each involving similar allegations that men developed melanoma after using the Pfizer’s popular erectile dysfunction drug, a panel of federal judges established an MDL earlier this year, centralizing litigation before U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg in the Northern District of California for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.

Pfizer currently faces nearly 200 product liability lawsuits over failure to warn about the link between side effects of Viagra and melanoma. However, as lawyers continue to review and file cases for men nationwide, it is widely expected several thousand claims will be filed in the coming months and years.

In a pretrial order (PDF) issued on November 7, Judge Seeborg approved a Master Long Form Complaint for Damages filed by plaintiffs in September, which contains allegations that are “suitable for adoption and incorporation by refeence in lawsuits filed by individuals consolidated in [the Viagra MDL].”

Judge Seeborg indicates that all plaintiffs with claims only against Pfizer shall use a Short Form Complaint when bringing new Viagra melanoma cases, and all plaintiffs with existing claims that were previously filed have been directed to file a Short Form Complaint by January 2, 2017.

Establishing coordinated allegations is designed to assist the parties and court in addressing various pretrial motions that may be filed in the Viagra litigation.

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 melanoma cases 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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