August 17, 2015 — The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) has transferred 78 lawsuits involving nerve damage from antibiotics into a Multi-District Litigation (MDL No. 2642) in Minnesota under Judge John R. Tunheim.
Defendants include Bayer HealthCare and Janssen Pharmaceuticals opposed centralization. They argued that plaintiffs are unlikely to win because peripheral neuropathy has been on the labels since 2004.
Plaintiffs argue that the warning label was inadequate because it said peripheral neuropathy was “rare” and would resolve when the antibiotic was discontinued. These warnings were contradicted by studies available at that time.
For example, a study published in 2001 by the Annals of Pharmacotherapy suggested that most cases of antibiotic-induced nerve damage persisted for at least a year.
In August 2013, the FDA ordered drug-makers to add nearly-identical warnings about peripheral neuropathy to the label on all three antibiotics. The agency emphasized that nerve damage could occur rapidly and cause permanent side effects.
The JPML does not normally centralize litigation on an industry-wide basis, but decided it was appropriate because all of the lawsuits are so similar. Centralization is also more convenient, efficient, and reduces the risk of conflicting pre-trial rulings in different courts.
Judges argued that Minnesota is an appropriate venue due to its central location. Furthermore, Judge Tunheim also oversaw MDL No. 1943, which involved around 2,000 lawsuits alleging that Levaquin caused tendon ruptures.
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