Nicholas Malfitano May 26, 2016, 11:47am


PHILADELPHIA - It might be more than a year from now, but litigation centered on the blood thinner Xarelto could eventually come to trial in Philadelphia courtrooms – and one attorney says the thousands of cases filed over the similar drug Pradaxa may serve as a guide to the value of those claims.

In addition to a grouping of Xarelto claims being processed in a Louisiana court, more than 700 lawsuits - most from out-of-state plaintiffs - will be handled in Philadelphia's Complex Litigation Center. The CLC has several mass tort programs, including cases over asbestos and Risperdal, and the percentage of claims belonging to out-of-state plaintiffs is typically in the high-80s.

About 770 cases have been filed in the Xarelto program at the CLC, overseen by Judge Arnold New. The first cases were filed in February 2014.

A Philadelphia attorney, Max Kennerly of Kennerly & Loutey, says there are more lawsuits coming.

“I expect to see an increase in filings over the next month or two given the media attention caused by The New York Times’ recent report, but on the whole this is now a stable mass tort that is reasonably well known,” he said.

“After that brief rise, I think we will see filings to continue for the next year or two at a similar rate as they have over the past few months.”

Kennerly, who has acted as counsel for Tor Hoerman in the past, said the federal Xarelto MDL has a bellwether pool of cases, and the parties are preparing for a Feb. 6 trial.

“Philly has just set up a deposition protocol [in March], so they are some time away from getting near trial-ready. I would expect a Philly bellwether [trial] in summer 2017 or later," he said.

Pradaxa and Xarelto are modern-day blood thinners, the spiritual successors to Coumadin. Coumadin was often taken by patients suffering from nonvalvular atrial fibrillation, an abnormal heart rhythm, to decrease the risk of a stroke.

Though, where Coumadin required regular medical monitoring to ensure safe administration and possessed an antidote, newer drugs such as Pradaxa and Xarelto were allegedly marketed as not needing such monitoring or to be taken as frequently, and did not have an antidote.

Pradaxa’s manufacturer, Boehringer Ingelheim, was on the receiving end of more than 9,000 lawsuits alleging some Pradaxa users were seriously injured or died due to “severe bleeding episodes” linked to the drug.

These litigants claimed Boehringer Ingelheim failed to warn Pradaxa users that the drug caused increased risks for such injurious and/or fatal bleeding episodes.

In May 2014, Boehringer Ingelheim settled about 4,000 Pradaxa claims in state and federal courts for approximately $650 million. Attorneys from Tor Hoerman in Illinois led that litigation, prior to the forming of any multidistrict litigation (MDL) proceeding related to Pradaxa.

Attorneys for Tor Hoerman declined to comment for this story.

Now, Xarelto is faced with a similar situation as Pradaxa – with litigants charging its manufacturers, Bayer and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, failed to warn patients that Xarelto use presented increased risks for cranial and gastrointestinal bleeding when taken once daily.

Risks which, allegedly, would be greatly decreased if the drug was taken twice daily and monitored properly.

The federal Xarelto MDL is headquartered in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana as Case No. 2592, with Judge Eldon E. Fallon presiding.

Though Kennerly indicated the exact worth of a Xarelto claim was difficult to ascertain at this early juncture, he said the prior settlement associated with Pradaxa may act as a guide to any possible future settlements related to Xarelto.

“In general, when mass torts settle these days, they settle with a ‘matrix’ that determines the value of each case (depending on factors relating to the strength of the proof and the damages, e.g. the most severe injuries sustained, the duration of drug use, and the age of the plaintiff),” Kennerly said.

“In the Xarelto cases, I would assume that the plaintiffs with severe injuries – like death, permanent injuries, or hospitalization for bleeding – would be able to negotiate settlements in the six figures. Where in those six figures they end up depends on how the case goes and what the defendants are willing to pay to resolve it,” Kennerly added.

Kennerly stated the Pradaxa settlement values “will weigh heavily on both sides as a potential guide given how similar the damages are,” but made sure to note the Xarelto litigation was “factually distinct” from Pradaxa’s.

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nickpennrecord@gmail.com

More News