October 3, 2012 — The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) has decided to transfer five new cases into the Fen Phen MDL, against the opposition of defendants Pfizer Inc. and Wyeth Pharmaceuticals.
The Fen Phen MDL, No. 1203, is located in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania before Judge Harvey Bartle III. In the order, dated September 27, 2012, the judicial panel argued that transferring the lawsuits into the MDL would help expedite a resolution.
Attorneys for Pfizer and Wyeth argued against transferring new cases into the MDL. They argued that the Fen Phen litigation had largely concluded, and so there would be little benefit to transferring an additional five lawsuits into the MDL.
The attorneys argued that the lawsuits should remain where they are currently filed, in the Northern District of California, because they are pending and should be allowed to resolve.
The judicial panel disagreed for several reasons. One reason was that they had previously denied similar objections from Pfizer and Wyeth in February 2012. Another reason was that, “The transferee judge has been extremely successful in resolving claims in a timely fashion, and transfer likely will aid in a speedier, not slower, resolution of plaintiff’s claims.”
Fen Phen is a diet pill that combines an appetite-suppressing drug and a stimulant (fenfluramine and phentermine). It became popular in the 1990s as a miracle weight-loss pill. Unfortunately, after millions of people used the drug, doctors found that it could cause severe damage to blood vessels in the lungs. At least 20,000 lawsuits have been included in the litigation, which was created in 1997. Most of these lawsuits were from people who suffered acute injuries to their lungs and heart valves.