February 13, 2017 — Federal judges have decided to consolidate all Eliquis bleeding lawsuits nationwide under one judge in a Multi-District Litigation (MDL) in New York.
The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation issued the order (PDF) on February 7, transferring 53 lawsuits in 17 districts to U.S. District Judge Denise L. Cote for coordinated pretrial proceedings.
The lawsuits will be transferred into the Southern District of New York — In re: Eliquis (Apixaban) Products Liability Litigation — MDL No. 2754.
All of the lawsuits involve people who suffered severe bleeding and other injuries after taking Eliquis (apixaban), a new type of blood-thinning medication that prevents blood clots and strokes.
The manufacturers of Eliquis, Pfizer Inc. and Bristol-Myers Squibb, are also accused of failing to conduct adequate safety-tests or provide adequate warnings — including warnings about the unavailability of a reversal agent to counteract uncontrollable bleeding in an emergency.
The Southern District of New York was chosen because at least 16 lawsuits are already pending there. Furthermore, both Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb have corporate headquarters in New York, which will likely be convenient for any relevant documents and witnesses.
There are now at least 10 law firms involved in the litigation, and while some of them opposed centralization, JPML rejected their arguments:
“It is clear that the number of involved counsel, the large number of actions and districts, and the complexity of the factual issues pose significant obstacles to informal coordination.”
Centralizing lawsuits in an MDL has many advantages. It prevents conflicting rulings in different courts, avoids duplicate discovery on the same issues, and serves the convenience of everyone involved.
Eliquis belongs to a new generation of blood-thinning medications that also includes Pradaxa and Xarelto. They were aggressively advertised as superior to Coumadin (warfarin), a blood-thinner that has been on the market since the 1950s and is easily reversed with Vitamin K.
There was no reversal agent for the new blood-thinners, which led to thousands of reports of patients who were injured or died from uncontrollable bleeding. The FDA approved an antidote to Pradaxa called Praxbind in October 2015, almost exactly 5 years after Pradaxa hit the market. Over 4,000 bleeding lawsuits ended with a $650 million settlement in May 2014.
In August 2016, the FDA delayed approving an antidote to Xarelto and Eliquis called Andexxa (andexanet alfa) over manufacturing concerns. The antidote worked in clinical trials and drug-makers predict 100,000 patients would need it per year. Over 15,000 Xarelto bleeding lawsuits are currently pending in MDL No. 2592 in Louisiana.