Zostavax MDL 2848 (Shingles Vaccine) Consolidated In USDC ED Pennsylvania

Zostavax MDL 2848 Puts Merck Back on the MDL Hotseat

By Mark A. York (August 14, 2018)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The JPML has created the Zostavax MDL 2848 and assigned the lawsuits filed related to Merck’s shingles vaccine to the United States District Court of Pennsylvania and Judge Harvey Bartle III. See Mass Tort Nexus Zostavax brief case: ZOSTAVAX-(Zoster-Vaccine-Live)-MDL-2848-USDC-Eastern-District-of-Pennsylvania.

Shingles is a rash on the side of the face or body, usually affecting persons over 50. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Zostavax as a shingles vaccine in 2006.

The August 2, 2018  order by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidates Zostavax MDL 2848 in the US District Court of Pennsylvania (Eastern District) in front of U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle, who has been hearing one of the initial Zostavax cases filed in  016. The lawsuits, filed in courts across the country including, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Wisconsin and Massachusetts, allege that Merck failed to warn that the virus in the vaccine caused shingles, brain damage and death, among other things.

In a move not often seen, defense counsel for Merck had moved for an MDL assigned to Judge Bartle in Pennsylvania or U.S. District Judge James Moody of the Middle District of Florida.

“Issues concerning the design, testing, manufacture, regulatory approval, labeling, and marketing of Zostavax are common to all actions,” wrote the JPML chairwoman, Sarah Vance. “Seven actions are pending in this district, and they are the earliest filed and most advanced actions in this litigation.”

Lead Counsel Comments

“My cases pending before Judge Bartle are the most advanced in the Zostavax litigation,” said Mark Sadaka of The Law Offices of Sadaka Associates in Englewood, New Jersey, a plaintiffs lawyer who supported sending the cases to Bartle. “Merck has already produced millions of pages of documents in my cases in the Easter District of Pennsylvania. Judge Bartle has already decided two summary judgment motions. I look forward to working together with other plaintiffs counsel to finally move our cases to trial.”

Other plaintiffs lawyers had formally opposed creation of an MDL.

Marc J. Bern & Partners in New York, a firm with by far the most individual plaintiffs in the country—over 5,000 Zostavax clients stated “we will be looking to be leaders in this MDL” and “certainly, Judge Bartle is a judge with long experience, has handled successfully other MDL’s” said name partner Marc Bern.

Merck Previously Admits Shingles Vaccine Can Cause Eye Damage and Shingles

Two important FDA approved changes to the warning label of Merck Pharmaceutical’s shingles vaccine, Zostavax, have been made since the controversial drug was introduced in 2006.  The first was in August 2014, when, in addition to potentially causing chickenpox, another side effect was added: shingles! That’s right. The vaccine that had been – and continues to be — aggressively marketed to prevent seniors from contracting this excruciating condition was found to actually cause shingles in some individuals.

The FDA approved a label change to warn those who prescribe the Zostavax vaccine of another potential side effect: “Eye Disorders: necrotizing retinitis.”

According to the authors of a Health Sciences Institute (HSI) article in January, 2016, “UCLA researchers found that only one in 175 people who get the vaccine will be able to dodge a shingles flare-up.”  While Merck claims Zostavax is 50% effective, in the placebo group, 3.3 percent of the study participants developed shingles, compared to 1.6 percent in the vaccine group. So, while that is a 50% difference, the real, absolute risk reduction is just 1.7 percentage points.

The case criteria generally include the following injurie:

  • Autoimmune disorders, including Guillain-Barre Syndrome, Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy, Meniere’s Disease
  • Bell’s Palsy (facial paralysis)
  • Cardiovascular event
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Death
  • Hearing loss
  • Herpetic Neuralgia (disorder in the nerves)
  • Myelitis (spinal cord inflammation)
  • Pneumonia
  • Postherpetic neuralgia, or PHN (pain continuing after shingles blister subside)
  • Serious neurological diseases or disorders, including brain inflammation (encephalitis)
  • Stroke
  • Vasculitis
  • Vision problems, including blindness, eye infections, retinal damage, acute retinal necrosis

The JPML was aware of certain issues related to creation of MDL 2858, may delay cases for some plaintiffs, many of whom are older, but coordination of the  litigation would help resolve all the cases, “even if some parties might experience inconvenience or delay.”

The JPML order does not apply to lawsuits brought on behalf of 300 plaintiffs in California state court and 800 plaintiffs in New Jersey state court.

One of the lawsuits filed by female plaintiff Joria Bentley from Nevada, claims she suffered high blood pressure, an eye injury and other side effects from Merck & Co.’s Zostavax shingles vaccine in Zostavax litigation filed in the Philadelphia’s Court of Common Pleas. Ms. Bentley claims in her complaint that the patient information sheet, label and prescribing information that accompanied the vaccine did not provide any warning of the risk of viral infection and cites to the many instances of adverse events and other reports on medical issues caused by Zostavax.

Patients who received the injections are filing product liability lawsuits against Merck, alleging the company produced and sold an “unreasonably dangerous vaccine” that caused serious injuries after vaccination. Hailing from a range of states including Louisiana, South Carolina, Tennessee, Michigan and Wisconsin, the plaintiffs filed their suit in Merck’s home state of New Jersey. Instead of preventing shingles, Zostavax caused the plaintiffs to “contract a persistent strain of herpes zoster,” according to the suit, resulting in painful outbreaks, hospital visits and post-herpetic neuralgia in two cases.

The common allegations in all complaints are negligence, defective design, failure to warn, breach of express and implied warranties, misrepresentation involving risk of physical harm and unjust enrichment.

“Merck knew, or should have known, that its product caused viral infection, and was therefore not safe for administration to consumers,” the suits claim. There are “thousands of complaints” yet to be filed according to one of the lead plaintiff attorneys, adding “I think Merck has failed terribly to warn about the very serious side effects and the failure of the vaccine to do what they claim it does” as Merck continues to profit from

National Vaccine Information Center

NVIC provides links and resources such as the manufacturer product information inserts for Zostavax and shingles.

What is Shingles?

  • This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice.

What is Zostavax?

Zostavax is a vaccine made by pharmaceutical giant Merck, and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2006. It was the only approved shingles vaccine in the United States until late 2017, which allowed the company to earn as much as $749 million in sales from the vaccine in 2016, according to reports.

This vaccine is designed to reduce the risk of getting herpes zoster — a painful and debilitating condition commonly known as “shingles” — in individuals ages 50 years and older, who are at increased risk of developing the virus. Zostavax is typically recommended for people aged 60 years and older by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and doctors commonly give the vaccine in a one-dose shot.

Zostavax differs from some vaccines in that it contains a live, but weakened form of the herpes zoster virus (this is officially referred to as a “live, attenuated virus”). People with weakened immune systems cannot receive these types of vaccines.

 

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Why Does the FDA Ignore “Off-Label” Drug Marketing?

“BY REMOVING FDA OVERSIGHT BIG PHARMA RUNS AMOK”

By Mark A. York (August 1, 2018)

(MASS TORT NEXUS MEDIA)  In 2017 and continuing into 2018, Big Pharma has been fighting major legal battles related to off-label marketing of drugs for unintended uses. They also engaged in a parallel strategy, where they were influencing the FDA and other policy making agencies behind the scenes in Washington DC. Big Pharma was paying millions to lobbyists, making campaign donations and generally buying influence as they always have. It was a foregone conclusion that with the Trump administration view of , “no regulatory oversight required” that there would be some loosening of the FDA regulatory shackles.

Big Pharma was getting ready for freedom to sell, sell, sell their drugs in any way they could, including off-label marketing of the drugs for unintended use purposes. A corporate policy, that’s technically illegal, yet results in billions of dollars in profits every years for Big Pharma. Then the FDA rolled out an unexpected new proposed rule, in March 2017 cracking down on “off-label’ marketing of drugs. This new rule change wasn’t in Big Pharma’s bests interests, sending the drug industry into a furious lobbying scramble. Bring in the Trump camp and on January 12, 2018 Big Pharma and the army of lobbyists and elected officials that were recruited, seem to have succeeded in stopping the FDA rules change that would have tightened up “off label” marketing of drugs.

Trump stops FDA enforcement rule change: January 12, 2018 Food and Drug Administration Press Release: FDA Delays Change to “Off-Label” Drug Use Enforcement Rules

This seems to be further evidence of the Trump administration permitting private corporations to control what goes on behind the scenes in federal regulatory agencies these days. The same loosening of enforcement rules has been seen in the EPA as well as in Dept. of Energy oversight enforcement authority. Whatever else you might think about the ramped up Trump vs. Obama administration mindset, this rule delay is an example of the new FDA leadership doing what is in the best interests of those they are supposed to be regulating, the drug makers, and not in the interests of the US consumers.

To put this into perspective, consider the current “Opioid Crisis” gripping the entire country, where “off-label” marketing of opiates for the last 20 years by drug makers, has resulted in thousands of deaths each year, unknown financial losses and the related social impact felt in every state across the country. Another result is the Opiate Prescription Litigation MDL 2804, (see OPIOID CRISIS BRIEFCASE: MDL 2804 OPIATE PRESCRIPTION LITIGATION) where litigation started when hundreds of counties, states and cities and other entities impacted by the catastrophic expense related to combatting the opiate healthcare crisis fought back. The various parties have filed lawsuits against opioid drug makers and distributors, demanding repayment of the billions of dollars spent on addressing the massive costs related to opioid abuse, primarily due to opioid based prescription drugs flooding the country.

When the Obama administration ended on January 9, 2017, the FDA issued a Final Rule on “Clarification of When Products Made or Derived from Tobacco are Regulated as Drugs, Devices, or Combination Products; Amendments to Regulations Regarding ‘Intended Uses.’” That “clarification” was meant to enable additional enforcement and control over drug makers rampant “off -label” marketing of drugs for purposes that were never FDA approved. This was an attempt by the FDA to have the ability to punish off-label promotions, where previously the process was a two-step regulatory review, whereby off-label promotions are said to prove an indicated use not included in the label and, thus, not accompanied by adequate directions for use – making the product misbranded. These regulations have been around since the 1950s, but a recent series of court decisions invoking the First Amendment called into question the FDA’s interpretation of “intended use” and its efforts to shut down truthful medical-science communications about potential benefits from off-label use.

In a 2015 proposed rule, the FDA referred to striking the language from regulations permitting the FDA to consider a manufacturer’s mere knowledge of actual use as evidence of intended use, which would have further enabled Big Pharma drug marketing abuses to go unchecked. But then, the FDA’s January 9, 2017 proposal reversed course, stating that retained knowledge of off-label use as evidence of intended use, clarified that any relevant source of evidence, whether circumstantial or direct could demonstrate intended use, and ultimately invoked the dreaded “totality of the evidence” standard. This would have enable the FDA to begin oversight and enforcement of practices such as the blatant and wide open “off-label” marketing of opioid prescription drugs that started in the mid-1990’s and never stopped.

Instead of putting a check on Big Pharma abuses, we have the Trump administration placing a hold on new regulations, and delaying the “intended use” regulation change to March 19, 2018, so that comments could be received and considered, and thereby enabling the Big Pharma “lobby machine” to become fully engaged across all DC circles, ensuring that the FDA changes are effectively put to rest.

The bottom line is that the FDA is now proposing to “delay until further notice” the portions of the final rule amending the FDA’s existing regulations on “off-label” drug use, when describing the types of evidence that may be considered in determining a medical product’s intended uses.  The FDA will receive comments on this proposal through February 5, 2018.

Here is the official FDA publication of January 16, 2018:

The Federal Register:  https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/01/16/2018-00555/clarification-of-when-products-made-or-derived-from-tobacco-are-regulated-as-drugs-devices-or

WHAT IS “OFF-LABEL” MARKETING?

Global health care giant Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and its subsidiaries will pay more than $2.2 billion to resolve criminal and civil liability arising from allegations relating to the prescription drugs Risperdal, Invega and Natrecor, including promotion for uses not approved as safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and payment of kickbacks to physicians and to the nation’s largest long-term care pharmacy provider.  The global resolution is one of the largest health care fraud settlements in U.S. history, including criminal fines and forfeiture totaling $485 million and civil settlements with the federal government and states totaling $1.72 billion.

“The conduct at issue in this case jeopardized the health and safety of patients and damaged the public trust,” stated Eric Holder, then US Attorney General, “This multibillion-dollar resolution demonstrates the Justice Department’s firm commitment to preventing and combating all forms of health care fraud.  And it proves our determination to hold accountable any corporation that breaks the law and enriches its bottom line at the expense of the American people” he added.

The resolution includes criminal fines and forfeiture for violations of the law and civil settlements based on the False Claims Act arising out of multiple investigations of the company and its subsidiaries.

“When companies put profit over patients’ health and misuse taxpayer dollars, we demand accountability,” said Associate Attorney General Tony West.  “In addition to significant monetary sanctions, we will ensure that non-monetary measures are in place to facilitate change in corporate behavior and help ensure the playing field is level for all market participants.”

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) protects the health and safety of the public by ensuring, among other things, that drugs intended for use in humans are safe and effective for their intended uses and that the labeling of such drugs bear true, complete and accurate information.  Under the FDCA, a pharmaceutical company must specify the intended uses of a drug in its new drug application to the FDA.  Before approval, the FDA must determine that the drug is safe and effective for those specified uses.  Once the drug is approved, if the company intends a different use and then introduces the drug into interstate commerce for that new, unapproved use, the drug becomes misbranded.  The unapproved use is also known as an “off-label” use because it is not included in the drug’s FDA-approved labeling.

“When pharmaceutical companies interfere with the FDA’s mission of ensuring that drugs are safe and effective for the American public, they undermine the doctor-patient relationship and put the health and safety of patients at risk,” said Director of the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations John Roth.  “Today’s settlement demonstrates the government’s continued focus on pharmaceutical companies that put profits ahead of the public’s health.  The FDA will continue to devote resources to criminal investigations targeting pharmaceutical companies that disregard the drug approval process and recklessly promote drugs for uses that have not been proven to be safe and effective.”

 J&J RISPERDAL MARKETING ABUSE

In a related civil complaint filed today in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the United States alleges that Janssen marketed Risperdal to control the behaviors and conduct of the nation’s most vulnerable patients: elderly nursing home residents, children and individuals with mental disabilities.  The government alleges that J&J and Janssen caused false claims to be submitted to federal health care programs by promoting Risperdal for off-label uses that federal health care programs did not cover, making false and misleading statements about the safety and efficacy of Risperdal and paying kickbacks to physicians to prescribe Risperdal.

“J&J’s promotion of Risperdal for unapproved uses threatened the most vulnerable populations of our society – children, the elderly and those with developmental disabilities,” said U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Zane Memeger.  “This historic settlement sends the message that drug manufacturers who place profits over patient care will face severe criminal and civil penalties.”

In its complaint, the government alleges that the FDA repeatedly advised Janssen that marketing Risperdal as safe and effective for the elderly would be “misleading.”  The FDA cautioned Janssen that behavioral disturbances in elderly dementia patients were not necessarily manifestations of psychotic disorders and might even be “appropriate responses to the deplorable conditions under which some demented patients are housed, thus raising an ethical question regarding the use of an antipsychotic medication for inappropriate behavioral control.”

The complaint further alleges that J&J and Janssen were aware that Risperdal posed serious health risks for the elderly, including an increased risk of strokes, but that the companies downplayed these risks.  For example, when a J&J study of Risperdal showed a significant risk of strokes and other adverse events in elderly dementia patients, the complaint alleges that Janssen combined the study data with other studies to make it appear that there was a lower overall risk of adverse events.  A year after J&J had received the results of a second study confirming the increased safety risk for elderly patients taking Risperdal, but had not published the data, one physician who worked on the study cautioned Janssen that “[a]t this point, so long after [the study] has been completed … we must be concerned that this gives the strong appearance that Janssen is purposely withholding the findings.”

The complaint also alleges that Janssen knew that patients taking Risperdal had an increased risk of developing diabetes, but nonetheless promoted Risperdal as “uncompromised by safety concerns (does not cause diabetes).”  When Janssen received the initial results of studies indicating that Risperdal posed the same diabetes risk as other antipsychotics, the complaint alleges that the company retained outside consultants to re-analyze the study results and ultimately published articles stating that Risperdal was actually associated with a lower risk of developing diabetes.

The complaint alleges that, despite the FDA warnings and increased health risks, from 1999 through 2005, Janssen aggressively marketed Risperdal to control behavioral disturbances in dementia patients through an “ElderCare sales force” designed to target nursing homes and doctors who treated the elderly.  In business plans, Janssen’s goal was to “[m]aximize and grow RISPERDAL’s market leadership in geriatrics and long term care.”  The company touted Risperdal as having “proven efficacy” and “an excellent safety and tolerability profile” in geriatric patients.

In addition to promoting Risperdal for elderly dementia patients, from 1999 through 2005, Janssen allegedly promoted the antipsychotic drug for use in children and individuals with mental disabilities.  The complaint alleges that J&J and Janssen knew that Risperdal posed certain health risks to children, including the risk of elevated levels of prolactin, a hormone that can stimulate breast development and milk production.  Nonetheless, one of Janssen’s Key Base Business Goals was to grow and protect the drug’s market share with child/adolescent patients.  Janssen instructed its sales representatives to call on child psychiatrists, as well as mental health facilities that primarily treated children, and to market Risperdal as safe and effective for symptoms of various childhood disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and autism.  Until late 2006, Risperdal was not approved for use in children for any purpose, and the FDA repeatedly warned the company against promoting it for use in children.

The government’s complaint also contains allegations that Janssen paid speaker fees to doctors to influence them to write prescriptions for Risperdal.  Sales representatives allegedly told these doctors that if they wanted to receive payments for speaking, they needed to increase their Risperdal prescriptions.

In addition to allegations relating to Risperdal, today’s settlement also resolves allegations relating to Invega, a newer antipsychotic drug also sold by Janssen.  Although Invega was approved only for the treatment of schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder, the government alleges that, from 2006 through 2009, J&J and Janssen marketed the drug for off-label indications and made false and misleading statements about its safety and efficacy.

As part of the global resolution, J&J and Janssen have agreed to pay a total of $1.391 billion to resolve the false claims allegedly resulting from their off-label marketing and kickbacks for Risperdal and Invega.  This total includes $1.273 billion to be paid as part of the resolution announced today, as well as $118 million that J&J and Janssen paid to the state of Texas in March 2012 to resolve similar allegations relating to Risperdal.  Because Medicaid is a joint federal-state program, J&J’s conduct caused losses to both the federal and state governments.  The additional payment made by J&J as part of today’s settlement will be shared between the federal and state governments, with the federal government recovering $749 million, and the states recovering $524 million.  The federal government and Texas each received $59 million from the Texas settlement.

NURSING HOME PATIENT ABUSES BY J&J

The civil settlement also resolves allegations that, in furtherance of their efforts to target elderly dementia patients in nursing homes, J&J and Janssen paid kickbacks to Omnicare Inc., the nation’s largest pharmacy specializing in dispensing drugs to nursing home patients.  In a complaint filed in the District of Massachusetts in January 2010, the United States alleged that J&J paid millions of dollars in kickbacks to Omnicare under the guise of market share rebate payments, data-purchase agreements, “grants” and “educational funding.”  These kickbacks were intended to induce Omnicare and its hundreds of consultant pharmacists to engage in “active intervention programs” to promote the use of Risperdal and other J&J drugs in nursing homes.  Omnicare’s consultant pharmacists regularly reviewed nursing home patients’ medical charts and made recommendations to physicians on what drugs should be prescribed for those patients.  Although consultant pharmacists purported to provide “independent” recommendations based on their clinical judgment, J&J viewed the pharmacists as an “extension of [J&J’s] sales force.”

J&J and Janssen have agreed to pay $149 million to resolve the government’s contention that these kickbacks caused Omnicare to submit false claims to federal health care programs.  The federal share of this settlement is $132 million, and the five participating states’ total share is $17 million.  In 2009, Omnicare paid $98 million to resolve its civil liability for claims that it accepted kickbacks from J&J and Janssen, along with certain other conduct.

“Consultant pharmacists can play an important role in protecting nursing home residents from the use of antipsychotic drugs as chemical restraints,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Carmen Ortiz.  “This settlement is a reminder that the recommendations of consultant pharmacists should be based on their independent clinical judgment and should not be the product of money paid by drug companies.”

OFF-LABEL USE OF HEART DRUG NATRECOR

The civil settlement announced today also resolves allegations that J&J and another of its subsidiaries, Scios Inc., caused false and fraudulent claims to be submitted to federal health care programs for the heart failure drug Natrecor.  In August 2001, the FDA approved Natrecor to treat patients with acutely decompensated congestive heart failure who have shortness of breath at rest or with minimal activity.  This approval was based on a study involving hospitalized patients experiencing severe heart failure who received infusions of Natrecor over an average 36-hour period.

In a civil complaint filed in 2009 in the Northern District of California, the government alleged that, shortly after Natrecor was approved, Scios launched an aggressive campaign to market the drug for scheduled, serial outpatient infusions for patients with less severe heart failure – a use not included in the FDA-approved label and not covered by federal health care programs.  These infusions generally involved visits to an outpatient clinic or doctor’s office for four- to six-hour infusions one or two times per week for several weeks or months.

The government’s complaint alleged that Scios had no sound scientific evidence supporting the medical necessity of these outpatient infusions and misleadingly used a small pilot study to encourage the serial outpatient use of the drug.  Among other things, Scios sponsored an extensive speaker program through which doctors were paid to tout the purported benefits of serial outpatient use of Natrecor.  Scios also urged doctors and hospitals to set up outpatient clinics specifically to administer the serial outpatient infusions, in some cases providing funds to defray the costs of setting up the clinics, and supplied providers with extensive resources and support for billing Medicare for the outpatient infusions.

As part of today’s resolution, J&J and Scios have agreed to pay the federal government $184 million to resolve their civil liability for the alleged false claims to federal health care programs resulting from their off-label marketing of Natrecor.  In October 2011, Scios pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor FDCA violation and paid a criminal fine of $85 million for introducing Natrecor into interstate commerce for an off-label use.

“This case is an example of a drug company encouraging doctors to use a drug in a way that was unsupported by valid scientific evidence,” said First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California Brian Stretch.  “We are committed to ensuring that federal health care programs do not pay for such inappropriate uses, and that pharmaceutical companies market their drugs only for uses that have been proven safe and effective.”

Non-Monetary Provisions of the Global Resolution and Corporate Integrity Agreement

In addition to the criminal and civil resolutions, J&J executed a five-year Corporate Integrity Agreement (CIA) with the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG).  The CIA includes provisions requiring J&J to implement major changes to the way its pharmaceutical affiliates do business.  Among other things, the CIA requires J&J to change its executive compensation program to permit the company to recoup annual bonuses and other long-term incentives from covered executives if they, or their subordinates, engage in significant misconduct.  J&J may recoup monies from executives who are current employees and from those who have left the company.  The CIA also requires J&J’s pharmaceutical businesses to implement and maintain transparency regarding their research practices, publication policies and payments to physicians.  On an annual basis, management employees, including senior executives and certain members of J&J’s independent board of directors, must certify compliance with provisions of the CIA.  J&J must submit detailed annual reports to HHS-OIG about its compliance program and its business operations.

“OIG will work aggressively with our law enforcement partners to hold companies accountable for marketing and promotion that violate laws intended to protect the public,” said Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Daniel R. Levinson.  “Our compliance agreement with Johnson & Johnson increases individual accountability for board members, sales representatives, company executives and management.  The agreement also contains strong monitoring and reporting provisions to help ensure that the public is protected from future unlawful and potentially harmful off-label marketing.”

FEDERAL AND STATE JOINT CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIONS

This resolution marks the culmination of an extensive, coordinated investigation by federal and state law enforcement partners that is the hallmark of the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative, which fosters government collaborations to fight fraud.  Announced in May 2009 by Attorney General Eric Holder and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the HEAT initiative has focused efforts to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud through enhanced cooperation.

The criminal cases against Janssen and Scios were handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the Northern District of California and the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch.  The civil settlements were handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the Northern District of California and the District of Massachusetts and the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch.  Assistance was provided by the HHS Office of Counsel to the Inspector General, Office of the General Counsel-CMS Division, the FDA’s Office of Chief Counsel and the National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units.

This matter was investigated by HHS-OIG, the Department of Defense’s Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations, the Office of Personnel Management’s Office of Inspector General, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Labor, TRICARE Program Integrity, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Office of the Inspector General and the FBI.

One of the most powerful tools in the fight against Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud is the False Claims Act.  Since January 2009, the Justice Department has recovered a total of more than $16.7 billion through False Claims Act cases, with more than $11.9 billion of that amount recovered in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs.

The department enforces the FDCA by prosecuting those who illegally distribute unapproved, misbranded and adulterated drugs and medical devices in violation of the Act.  Since 2009, fines, penalties and forfeitures that have been imposed in connection with such FDCA violations have totaled more than $6 billion.

The civil settlements described above resolve multiple lawsuits filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act, which allow private citizens to bring civil actions on behalf of the government and to share in any recovery.  From the federal government’s share of the civil settlements announced today, the whistleblowers in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania will receive $112 million, the whistleblowers in the District of Massachusetts will receive $27.7 million and the whistleblower in the Northern District of California will receive $28 million.  Except to the extent that J&J subsidiaries have pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty to the criminal charges discussed above, the claims settled by the civil settlements are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability

With the Trump Administration still claiming that no regulatory oversight is needed to monitor the US drug industry, that they can self-regulate, it appears that there will be no letup in the rampant “off-label: and unintended use marketing of pharmaceutical drugs in the United States.  The one way that Big Pharma is held accountable is in the courtroom, although financial damages and penalties against the drug companies amounting to billions of dollars each year being awarded by juries, wont change FDA policy, it does provide a small amount of official recognition that there are ongoing abuses by the pharmaceutical industry in the USA.

 

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Zinbryta Emerging Litigation

Emerging Zinbryta Litigation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zinbryta (daclizumab) is made and marketed by Biogen and AbbVie. Zinbryta first received FDA approval pursuant to Biologic License Application (BLA: 761029) in May of 2016.  Zinbryta is a humanized monoclonal antibody that is self-administered as an injection for the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis.

In March of 2018 Biogen published a letter directed towards physicians and surgeons giving notice that Zinbryta would be withdrawn from the market and would no longer be available as of April 30, 2018.

Biogen Withdrawal Letter link: Biogen – AbbVie Notice of Withdrawal of Zinbryta in USA – March 12, 2018

Additional media related to withdrawal of Zinbryta:

https://www.zinbryta.com/content/dam/commercial/multiple-sclerosis/zinbryta/pat/en_us/pdfs/zinbryta-withdrawal-patient-letter.pdf

Adverse events potentially associated with Zinbryta include:

Serious Liver Damage

Inflammatory Brain Disease

Encephalitis

Onset of Seizures secondary to adverse reactions.

Death secondary to adverse reactions.

To Learn More About the Emerging Zinbryta Litigation:

The emerging Zinbryta Litigation will be used as a case study in the May 18th to 21st 2018 Mass Tort Nexus, “Four Days to Mass Tort Success Course” To register for the May Course, contact Jenny Levine at jenny@masstortnexus.com or call (954) 520-4494.

 

 

For information on the class and to enroll, use this link-“Enroll Here To Attend “Four Days to Mass Tort Success”

Course attendees will receive the benefit of a step by step analysis of the emerging Zinbryta Litigaton, using these primary metrics:

Mass Tort Nexus Metrics

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of the top mass tort trial lawyers in the country have endorsed the Mass Tort Nexus Immersion Course, including James Onder, of The Onder Firm in St. Louis, MO>

 

 

The Mass Tort Nexus Classes on Emerging Litigation and Ongoing Mass Torts are considered the premier source in the country to learn about the fundamentals of mass torts and how to enhance your firm practice, increase revenues and manage the related business operations effectively.  Don’t wait for the next class or next year, enroll today and learn what others already have, Mass Torts are where your firm can and will grow its practice.

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While Big Pharma “Off-Label” Drug Marketing Continues – FDA Does Nothing

By Mark A. York (April 24, 2018)

“BY REMOVING FDA OVERSIGHT BIG PHARMA RUNS AMOK”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(MASS TORT NEXUS MEDIA) In 2017 and continuing into 2018, Big Pharma has been fighting major legal battles related to off-label marketing of drugs for unintended uses. They also engaged in a parallel strategy, where they were influencing the FDA and other policy making agencies behind the scenes in Washington DC. Big Pharma was paying millions to lobbyists, making campaign donations and generally buying influence as they always have. It was a foregone conclusion that with the Trump administration view of , “no regulatory oversight required” that there would be some loosening of the FDA regulatory shackles.

Big Pharma was getting ready for freedom to sell, sell, sell their drugs in any way they could, including off-label marketing of the drugs for unintended use purposes. A corporate policy, that’s technically illegal, yet results in billions of dollars in profits every years for Big Pharma. Then the FDA rolled out an unexpected new proposed rule, in March 2017 cracking down on “off-label’ marketing of drugs. This new rule change wasn’t in Big Pharma’s bests interests, sending the drug industry into a furious lobbying scramble. Bring in the Trump camp and on January 12, 2018 Big Pharma and the army of lobbyists and elected officials that were recruited, seem to have succeeded in stopping the FDA rules change that would have tightened up “off label” marketing of drugs.

Trump stops FDA enforcement rule change: January 12, 2018 Food and Drug Administration Press Release: FDA Delays Change to “Off-Label” Drug Use Enforcement Rules

This seems to be further evidence of the Trump administration permitting private corporations to control what goes on behind the scenes in federal regulatory agencies these days. The same loosening of enforcement rules has been seen in the EPA as well as in Dept. of Energy oversight enforcement authority. Whatever else you might think about the ramped up Trump vs. Obama administration mindset, this rule delay is an example of the new FDA leadership doing what is in the best interests of those they are supposed to be regulating, the drug makers, and not in the interests of the US consumers.

To put this into perspective, consider the current “Opioid Crisis” gripping the entire country, where “off-label” marketing of opiates for the last 20 years by drug makers, has resulted in thousands of deaths each year, unknown financial losses and the related social impact felt in every state across the country. Another result is the Opiate Prescription Litigation MDL 2804, (see OPIOID CRISIS BRIEFCASE: MDL 2804 OPIATE PRESCRIPTION LITIGATION) where litigation started when hundreds of counties, states and cities and other entities impacted by the catastrophic expense related to combatting the opiate healthcare crisis fought back. The various parties have filed lawsuits against opioid drug makers and distributors, demanding repayment of the billions of dollars spent on addressing the massive costs related to opioid abuse, primarily due to opioid based prescription drugs flooding the country.

When the Obama administration ended on January 9, 2017, the FDA issued a Final Rule on “Clarification of When Products Made or Derived from Tobacco are Regulated as Drugs, Devices, or Combination Products; Amendments to Regulations Regarding ‘Intended Uses.’” That “clarification” was meant to enable additional enforcement and control over drug makers rampant “off -label” marketing of drugs for purposes that were never FDA approved. This was an attempt by the FDA to have the ability to punish off-label promotions, where previously the process was a two-step regulatory review, whereby off-label promotions are said to prove an indicated use not included in the label and, thus, not accompanied by adequate directions for use – making the product misbranded. These regulations have been around since the 1950s, but a recent series of court decisions invoking the First Amendment called into question the FDA’s interpretation of “intended use” and its efforts to shut down truthful medical-science communications about potential benefits from off-label use.

In a 2015 proposed rule, the FDA referred to striking the language from regulations permitting the FDA to consider a manufacturer’s mere knowledge of actual use as evidence of intended use, which would have further enabled Big Pharma drug marketing abuses to go unchecked. But then, the FDA’s January 9, 2017 proposal reversed course, stating that retained knowledge of off-label use as evidence of intended use, clarified that any relevant source of evidence, whether circumstantial or direct could demonstrate intended use, and ultimately invoked the dreaded “totality of the evidence” standard. This would have enable the FDA to begin oversight and enforcement of practices such as the blatant and wide open “off-label” marketing of opioid prescription drugs that started in the mid-1990’s and never stopped.

Instead of putting a check on Big Pharma abuses, we have the Trump administration placing a hold on new regulations, and delaying the “intended use” regulation change to March 19, 2018, so that comments could be received and considered, and thereby enabling the Big Pharma “lobby machine” to become fully engaged across all DC circles, ensuring that the FDA changes are effectively put to rest.

The bottom line is that the FDA is now proposing to “delay until further notice” the portions of the final rule amending the FDA’s existing regulations on “off-label” drug use, when describing the types of evidence that may be considered in determining a medical product’s intended uses.  The FDA will receive comments on this proposal through February 5, 2018.

Here is the official FDA publication of January 16, 2018:

The Federal Register:  https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/01/16/2018-00555/clarification-of-when-products-made-or-derived-from-tobacco-are-regulated-as-drugs-devices-or

WHAT IS “OFF-LABEL” MARKETING?

Global health care giant Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and its subsidiaries will pay more than $2.2 billion to resolve criminal and civil liability arising from allegations relating to the prescription drugs Risperdal, Invega and Natrecor, including promotion for uses not approved as safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and payment of kickbacks to physicians and to the nation’s largest long-term care pharmacy provider.  The global resolution is one of the largest health care fraud settlements in U.S. history, including criminal fines and forfeiture totaling $485 million and civil settlements with the federal government and states totaling $1.72 billion.

“The conduct at issue in this case jeopardized the health and safety of patients and damaged the public trust,” stated Eric Holder, then US Attorney General, “This multibillion-dollar resolution demonstrates the Justice Department’s firm commitment to preventing and combating all forms of health care fraud.  And it proves our determination to hold accountable any corporation that breaks the law and enriches its bottom line at the expense of the American people” he added.

The resolution includes criminal fines and forfeiture for violations of the law and civil settlements based on the False Claims Act arising out of multiple investigations of the company and its subsidiaries.

“When companies put profit over patients’ health and misuse taxpayer dollars, we demand accountability,” said Associate Attorney General Tony West.  “In addition to significant monetary sanctions, we will ensure that non-monetary measures are in place to facilitate change in corporate behavior and help ensure the playing field is level for all market participants.”

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) protects the health and safety of the public by ensuring, among other things, that drugs intended for use in humans are safe and effective for their intended uses and that the labeling of such drugs bear true, complete and accurate information.  Under the FDCA, a pharmaceutical company must specify the intended uses of a drug in its new drug application to the FDA.  Before approval, the FDA must determine that the drug is safe and effective for those specified uses.  Once the drug is approved, if the company intends a different use and then introduces the drug into interstate commerce for that new, unapproved use, the drug becomes misbranded.  The unapproved use is also known as an “off-label” use because it is not included in the drug’s FDA-approved labeling.

“When pharmaceutical companies interfere with the FDA’s mission of ensuring that drugs are safe and effective for the American public, they undermine the doctor-patient relationship and put the health and safety of patients at risk,” said Director of the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations John Roth.  “Today’s settlement demonstrates the government’s continued focus on pharmaceutical companies that put profits ahead of the public’s health.  The FDA will continue to devote resources to criminal investigations targeting pharmaceutical companies that disregard the drug approval process and recklessly promote drugs for uses that have not been proven to be safe and effective.”

 J&J RISPERDAL MARKETING ABUSE

In a related civil complaint filed today in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the United States alleges that Janssen marketed Risperdal to control the behaviors and conduct of the nation’s most vulnerable patients: elderly nursing home residents, children and individuals with mental disabilities.  The government alleges that J&J and Janssen caused false claims to be submitted to federal health care programs by promoting Risperdal for off-label uses that federal health care programs did not cover, making false and misleading statements about the safety and efficacy of Risperdal and paying kickbacks to physicians to prescribe Risperdal.

“J&J’s promotion of Risperdal for unapproved uses threatened the most vulnerable populations of our society – children, the elderly and those with developmental disabilities,” said U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Zane Memeger.  “This historic settlement sends the message that drug manufacturers who place profits over patient care will face severe criminal and civil penalties.”

In its complaint, the government alleges that the FDA repeatedly advised Janssen that marketing Risperdal as safe and effective for the elderly would be “misleading.”  The FDA cautioned Janssen that behavioral disturbances in elderly dementia patients were not necessarily manifestations of psychotic disorders and might even be “appropriate responses to the deplorable conditions under which some demented patients are housed, thus raising an ethical question regarding the use of an antipsychotic medication for inappropriate behavioral control.”

The complaint further alleges that J&J and Janssen were aware that Risperdal posed serious health risks for the elderly, including an increased risk of strokes, but that the companies downplayed these risks.  For example, when a J&J study of Risperdal showed a significant risk of strokes and other adverse events in elderly dementia patients, the complaint alleges that Janssen combined the study data with other studies to make it appear that there was a lower overall risk of adverse events.  A year after J&J had received the results of a second study confirming the increased safety risk for elderly patients taking Risperdal, but had not published the data, one physician who worked on the study cautioned Janssen that “[a]t this point, so long after [the study] has been completed … we must be concerned that this gives the strong appearance that Janssen is purposely withholding the findings.”

The complaint also alleges that Janssen knew that patients taking Risperdal had an increased risk of developing diabetes, but nonetheless promoted Risperdal as “uncompromised by safety concerns (does not cause diabetes).”  When Janssen received the initial results of studies indicating that Risperdal posed the same diabetes risk as other antipsychotics, the complaint alleges that the company retained outside consultants to re-analyze the study results and ultimately published articles stating that Risperdal was actually associated with a lower risk of developing diabetes.

The complaint alleges that, despite the FDA warnings and increased health risks, from 1999 through 2005, Janssen aggressively marketed Risperdal to control behavioral disturbances in dementia patients through an “ElderCare sales force” designed to target nursing homes and doctors who treated the elderly.  In business plans, Janssen’s goal was to “[m]aximize and grow RISPERDAL’s market leadership in geriatrics and long term care.”  The company touted Risperdal as having “proven efficacy” and “an excellent safety and tolerability profile” in geriatric patients.

In addition to promoting Risperdal for elderly dementia patients, from 1999 through 2005, Janssen allegedly promoted the antipsychotic drug for use in children and individuals with mental disabilities.  The complaint alleges that J&J and Janssen knew that Risperdal posed certain health risks to children, including the risk of elevated levels of prolactin, a hormone that can stimulate breast development and milk production.  Nonetheless, one of Janssen’s Key Base Business Goals was to grow and protect the drug’s market share with child/adolescent patients.  Janssen instructed its sales representatives to call on child psychiatrists, as well as mental health facilities that primarily treated children, and to market Risperdal as safe and effective for symptoms of various childhood disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and autism.  Until late 2006, Risperdal was not approved for use in children for any purpose, and the FDA repeatedly warned the company against promoting it for use in children.

The government’s complaint also contains allegations that Janssen paid speaker fees to doctors to influence them to write prescriptions for Risperdal.  Sales representatives allegedly told these doctors that if they wanted to receive payments for speaking, they needed to increase their Risperdal prescriptions.

In addition to allegations relating to Risperdal, today’s settlement also resolves allegations relating to Invega, a newer antipsychotic drug also sold by Janssen.  Although Invega was approved only for the treatment of schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder, the government alleges that, from 2006 through 2009, J&J and Janssen marketed the drug for off-label indications and made false and misleading statements about its safety and efficacy.

As part of the global resolution, J&J and Janssen have agreed to pay a total of $1.391 billion to resolve the false claims allegedly resulting from their off-label marketing and kickbacks for Risperdal and Invega.  This total includes $1.273 billion to be paid as part of the resolution announced today, as well as $118 million that J&J and Janssen paid to the state of Texas in March 2012 to resolve similar allegations relating to Risperdal.  Because Medicaid is a joint federal-state program, J&J’s conduct caused losses to both the federal and state governments.  The additional payment made by J&J as part of today’s settlement will be shared between the federal and state governments, with the federal government recovering $749 million, and the states recovering $524 million.  The federal government and Texas each received $59 million from the Texas settlement.

NURSING HOME PATIENT ABUSES BY J&J

The civil settlement also resolves allegations that, in furtherance of their efforts to target elderly dementia patients in nursing homes, J&J and Janssen paid kickbacks to Omnicare Inc., the nation’s largest pharmacy specializing in dispensing drugs to nursing home patients.  In a complaint filed in the District of Massachusetts in January 2010, the United States alleged that J&J paid millions of dollars in kickbacks to Omnicare under the guise of market share rebate payments, data-purchase agreements, “grants” and “educational funding.”  These kickbacks were intended to induce Omnicare and its hundreds of consultant pharmacists to engage in “active intervention programs” to promote the use of Risperdal and other J&J drugs in nursing homes.  Omnicare’s consultant pharmacists regularly reviewed nursing home patients’ medical charts and made recommendations to physicians on what drugs should be prescribed for those patients.  Although consultant pharmacists purported to provide “independent” recommendations based on their clinical judgment, J&J viewed the pharmacists as an “extension of [J&J’s] sales force.”

J&J and Janssen have agreed to pay $149 million to resolve the government’s contention that these kickbacks caused Omnicare to submit false claims to federal health care programs.  The federal share of this settlement is $132 million, and the five participating states’ total share is $17 million.  In 2009, Omnicare paid $98 million to resolve its civil liability for claims that it accepted kickbacks from J&J and Janssen, along with certain other conduct.

“Consultant pharmacists can play an important role in protecting nursing home residents from the use of antipsychotic drugs as chemical restraints,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Carmen Ortiz.  “This settlement is a reminder that the recommendations of consultant pharmacists should be based on their independent clinical judgment and should not be the product of money paid by drug companies.”

OFF-LABEL USE OF HEART DRUG NATRECOR

The civil settlement announced today also resolves allegations that J&J and another of its subsidiaries, Scios Inc., caused false and fraudulent claims to be submitted to federal health care programs for the heart failure drug Natrecor.  In August 2001, the FDA approved Natrecor to treat patients with acutely decompensated congestive heart failure who have shortness of breath at rest or with minimal activity.  This approval was based on a study involving hospitalized patients experiencing severe heart failure who received infusions of Natrecor over an average 36-hour period.

In a civil complaint filed in 2009 in the Northern District of California, the government alleged that, shortly after Natrecor was approved, Scios launched an aggressive campaign to market the drug for scheduled, serial outpatient infusions for patients with less severe heart failure – a use not included in the FDA-approved label and not covered by federal health care programs.  These infusions generally involved visits to an outpatient clinic or doctor’s office for four- to six-hour infusions one or two times per week for several weeks or months.

The government’s complaint alleged that Scios had no sound scientific evidence supporting the medical necessity of these outpatient infusions and misleadingly used a small pilot study to encourage the serial outpatient use of the drug.  Among other things, Scios sponsored an extensive speaker program through which doctors were paid to tout the purported benefits of serial outpatient use of Natrecor.  Scios also urged doctors and hospitals to set up outpatient clinics specifically to administer the serial outpatient infusions, in some cases providing funds to defray the costs of setting up the clinics, and supplied providers with extensive resources and support for billing Medicare for the outpatient infusions.

As part of today’s resolution, J&J and Scios have agreed to pay the federal government $184 million to resolve their civil liability for the alleged false claims to federal health care programs resulting from their off-label marketing of Natrecor.  In October 2011, Scios pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor FDCA violation and paid a criminal fine of $85 million for introducing Natrecor into interstate commerce for an off-label use.

“This case is an example of a drug company encouraging doctors to use a drug in a way that was unsupported by valid scientific evidence,” said First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California Brian Stretch.  “We are committed to ensuring that federal health care programs do not pay for such inappropriate uses, and that pharmaceutical companies market their drugs only for uses that have been proven safe and effective.”

Non-Monetary Provisions of the Global Resolution and Corporate Integrity Agreement

In addition to the criminal and civil resolutions, J&J executed a five-year Corporate Integrity Agreement (CIA) with the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG).  The CIA includes provisions requiring J&J to implement major changes to the way its pharmaceutical affiliates do business.  Among other things, the CIA requires J&J to change its executive compensation program to permit the company to recoup annual bonuses and other long-term incentives from covered executives if they, or their subordinates, engage in significant misconduct.  J&J may recoup monies from executives who are current employees and from those who have left the company.  The CIA also requires J&J’s pharmaceutical businesses to implement and maintain transparency regarding their research practices, publication policies and payments to physicians.  On an annual basis, management employees, including senior executives and certain members of J&J’s independent board of directors, must certify compliance with provisions of the CIA.  J&J must submit detailed annual reports to HHS-OIG about its compliance program and its business operations.

“OIG will work aggressively with our law enforcement partners to hold companies accountable for marketing and promotion that violate laws intended to protect the public,” said Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Daniel R. Levinson.  “Our compliance agreement with Johnson & Johnson increases individual accountability for board members, sales representatives, company executives and management.  The agreement also contains strong monitoring and reporting provisions to help ensure that the public is protected from future unlawful and potentially harmful off-label marketing.”

FEDERAL AND STATE JOINT CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIONS

This resolution marks the culmination of an extensive, coordinated investigation by federal and state law enforcement partners that is the hallmark of the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative, which fosters government collaborations to fight fraud.  Announced in May 2009 by Attorney General Eric Holder and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the HEAT initiative has focused efforts to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud through enhanced cooperation.

The criminal cases against Janssen and Scios were handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the Northern District of California and the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch.  The civil settlements were handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the Northern District of California and the District of Massachusetts and the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch.  Assistance was provided by the HHS Office of Counsel to the Inspector General, Office of the General Counsel-CMS Division, the FDA’s Office of Chief Counsel and the National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units.

This matter was investigated by HHS-OIG, the Department of Defense’s Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations, the Office of Personnel Management’s Office of Inspector General, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Labor, TRICARE Program Integrity, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Office of the Inspector General and the FBI.

One of the most powerful tools in the fight against Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud is the False Claims Act.  Since January 2009, the Justice Department has recovered a total of more than $16.7 billion through False Claims Act cases, with more than $11.9 billion of that amount recovered in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs.

The department enforces the FDCA by prosecuting those who illegally distribute unapproved, misbranded and adulterated drugs and medical devices in violation of the Act.  Since 2009, fines, penalties and forfeitures that have been imposed in connection with such FDCA violations have totaled more than $6 billion.

The civil settlements described above resolve multiple lawsuits filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act, which allow private citizens to bring civil actions on behalf of the government and to share in any recovery.  From the federal government’s share of the civil settlements announced today, the whistleblowers in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania will receive $112 million, the whistleblowers in the District of Massachusetts will receive $27.7 million and the whistleblower in the Northern District of California will receive $28 million.  Except to the extent that J&J subsidiaries have pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty to the criminal charges discussed above, the claims settled by the civil settlements are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability

With the Trump Administration still claiming that no regulatory oversight is needed to monitor the US drug industry, that they can self-regulate, it appears that there will be no letup in the rampant “off-label: and unintended use marketing of pharmaceutical drugs in the United States.  The one way that Big Pharma is held accountable is in the courtroom, although financial damages and penalties against the drug companies amounting to billions of dollars each year being awarded by juries, wont change FDA policy, it does provide a small amount of official recognition that there are ongoing abuses by the pharmaceutical industry in the USA.

 

 

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$35 Million In Punitives Added To Bard TVM Trial Verdict in NJ Court

“TOTAL VERDICT OF $68 MILLION IN SYNTHETIC SURGICAL MESH TRIAL”

Mark A. York (April 18, 2018)

SYNTHETIC MESH COMPANIES FACING THOUSAND OF LAWSUITS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(MASS TORT NEXUS MEDIA) C.R. Bard, Inc. was ordered to pay an additional $35 million in punitive damages, added to the $33 million the jury initially award for a total of verdict of $68 million in the first Transvaginal Mesh trial for Bard in New Jersey state court. Plaintiff Mary McGinnis was successful in her claims that Bard’s synthetic vaginal mesh implants are defective, asserting that Bard defectively designed the product, ignored warnings and related FDA notices about the numerous adverse events related to their synthetic surgical mesh products.

Bard, a subsidiary of global medical supplier Becton-Dickinson of Franklin Lakes, says it will appeal the verdict. In a statement, the company said McGinnis knew of the inherent risks in having the vaginal implants. This case docket can be found under Mary McGinnis and Thomas Walsh McGinnis v. C.R. Bard Inc., et al., case number BER-L-17543-14, Bergen County Superior Court, Judge James DeLuca.

The punitive damage award was added after the initial $33 million verdict was returned and the judge set a hearing to address the punitive damages award. The jury decided that there were grounds to award plaintiff Mary McGinnis and her husband the large verdict based on trial testimony and evidence that Bard was aware of the mesh product dangers and chose to ignore the thousands of adverse events reported related to post-surgery complications claimed by women across the country.

The Bard synthetic mesh products are designed to provide pelvic support for any number of medical issues primarily affecting women, with synthetic mesh recognized as often causing major medical complications and leaving patients in permanent pain. The jury held the company liable for two products that McGinnis had implanted in March of 2009: an Avaulta Solo mesh, and an Align Transobturator and Bard was forced to concede that both products have been taken off the market.

The verdict comes as Murray Hill, New Jersey-based Bard is pushing to a flood of litigation its surgical mesh implants , which have been criticized by women for damaging internal and often affecting or stopping normal sex lives. Bard has settled more than 13,000 cases since 2014, and as of September 2017, the company still faced more than 3,000 suits over allegedly defective synthetic mesh devices still in litigation. Those cases are part of the Bard-TVM-Litigation-MDL-2187 Briefcase, in front of Judge Goodwin, US District Court of West Virginia.  While Bard still faces another 150 lawsuits in New Jersey state court, which previously had been perceived as a favorable home court legal venue by the company.

McGinnis alleged Bard’s Avaulta and Align implants shrank after being implanted, causing nerve damage and leaving her unable to engage in sexual activity and that she was forced to undergo four surgeries in attempts to remove all the mesh from her body.

Bard took the Avaulta implants off the market in 2012 and did the same with the Align inserts in 2016. The company chose to remove the products the day after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2010 ordered Bard and other mesh-manufacturers, including Johnson & Johnson (Ethicon), Boston Scientific and Endo (American Medical S), to review their mesh products, which also resulted in J&J removing four lines of synthetic surgical mesh products from the market.J&J’s Ethicon subsidiary is facing more than 50 thousand lawsuits regarding its synthetic mesh device in Ethicon (J&J) Pelvic Mesh TVM Litigation MDL-2327.

The Ethicon MDL is in the same West Virginia federal court as the Bard and other mesh manufacturer multidistrict litigation, which are all being heard by Judge Goodwin.  Judge Goodwin has previously expressed his frustration with the parties not engaging in substantive settlements discussions to resolve the thousands of cases, the one option he has is to begin remanding cases back for trial in court venues around the country, possibly forcing both sides to begin earnest settlement talks. Goodwin has held hearings with leadership attorneys from both sides appearing before the court to possibly kickstart settlements. He has gone so far as to warn mesh manufacturers that if they do not settle, U.S. juries appear poised to inflict hundreds of millions, or even billions, of dollars in compensatory and punitive damages on them in thousands of cases that would overload the federal judicial system for years to come.

Bard has been accused in many lawsuits of using a form of polypropylene mesh in the devices, that their mesh supplier and manufacturer had warned wasn’t suitable for human implantation. Bard officials countered that the mesh was a safe substance from which to make the inserts, ignoring the safety sheet warning issued by the polypropylene mesh product maker.

Last year, C.R. Bard was acquired by medical-device company Becton, Dickinson & Co. $24 billion, combining two of the world’s biggest health-care suppliers.  How the thousands of remaining mesh lawsuits affect the company business model and potentially moves them towards serious settlement discussions remains to be seen.

This case can be found at: Mary McGinnis v. C.R. Bard, Inc., Docket No.: BERL1754314, Bergen County, New Jersey Superior Court (Hackensack).

 

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FDA Delays “Off-Label” Intended Use Rule Change For Drugs

“Trump Lets Big Pharma Off The Hook”

By Mark. A. York (January 23, 2018)

Trump Removes FDA Rules

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(MASS TORT NEXUS MEDIA) Just as Big Pharma was looking at 2017 victories related to off-label marketing of drugs for unintended uses, drug makers were expecting some loosening of the regulatory shackles. Then the FDA rolled out a new rule on that subject, that wasn’t in Big Pharma’s bests interests, sending the drug industry into a lobbying scramble. Bring in the Trump camp and on January 12, 2018 Big Pharma and the army of lobbyists and elected officials in their camp, seem to have succeeded in stopping the FDA rules change that would have tightened up “off label” marketing of drugs.

Trump stops FDA enforcement rule change: January 12, 2018 Food and Drug Administration Press Release: FDA Delays Change to “Off-Label” Drug Use Enforcement Rules

This seems to be further evidence of the Trump administration permitting private corporations to control what goes on behind the scenes in federal regulatory agencies these days. The same loosening of enforcement rules has been seen in the EPA as well as in Energy oversight enforcement authority. Whatever else you might think about the ramped up Trump vs. Obama administration mindset, this delay is an example of the new FDA leadership doing what is in the best interests of those they are supposed to be regulating, the drug makers, and not in the interests of the US consumers.

To put this into perspective, consider the current “Opioid Crisis” gripping the entire country, where “off-label” marketing of opiates for the last 20 years by drug makers, has resulted in thousands of deaths each year, unknown financial losses and the related social impact felt in every state across the country. Another result is the Opiate Prescription Litigation MDL 2804, (see OPIOID CRISIS BRIEFCASE: MDL 2804 OPIATE PRESCRIPTION LITIGATION) where litigation started when hundreds of counties, states and cities and other entities impacted by the catastrophic expense related to combatting the opiate healthcare crisis fought back. The various parties have filed lawsuits against opioid drug makers and distributors, demanding repayment of the billions of dollars spent on addressing the massive costs related to opioid abuse, primarily due to opioid based prescription drugs flooding the country.

As the Obama administration ended on January 9, 2017, the FDA issued a Final Rule on “Clarification of When Products Made or Derived from Tobacco are Regulated as Drugs, Devices, or Combination Products; Amendments to Regulations Regarding ‘Intended Uses.’” That “clarification” was meant to enable additional enforcement and control over drug makers rampant “off -label” marketing of drugs for purposes that were never FDA approved. This was an attempt by the FDA to have the ability to punish off-label promotions, where previously the process was a two-step regulatory review, whereby off-label promotions are said to prove an indicated use not included in the label and, thus, not accompanied by adequate directions for use – making the product misbranded. These regulations have been around since the 1950s, but a recent series of court decisions invoking the First Amendment called into question the FDA’s interpretation of “intended use” and its efforts to shut down truthful medical-science communications about potential benefits from off-label use.

In a 2015 proposed rule, the FDA referred to striking the language from regulations permitting the FDA to consider a manufacturer’s mere knowledge of actual use as evidence of intended use, which would have further enabled Big Pharma drug marketing abuses to go unchecked. But then, the FDA’s January 9, 2017 proposal reversed course, stating that retained knowledge of off-label use as evidence of intended use, clarified that any relevant source of evidence, whether circumstantial or direct could demonstrate intended use, and ultimately invoked the dreaded “totality of the evidence” standard. This would have enable the FDA to begin oversight and enforcement of practices such as the blatant and wide open “off-label” marketing of opioid prescription drugs that started in the mid-1990’s and never stopped.

Instead of putting a check on Big Pharma abuses, we have the Trump administration placing a hold on new regulations, and delaying the “intended use” regulation change to March 19, 2018, so that comments could be received and considered, and thereby enabling the Big Pharma “lobby machine” to become fully engaged across all DC circles, ensuring that the FDA changes are effectively put to rest.

The bottom line is that the FDA is now proposing to “delay until further notice” the portions of the final rule amending the FDA’s existing regulations on “off-label” drug use, when describing the types of evidence that may be considered in determining a medical product’s intended uses.  The FDA will receive comments on this proposal through February 5, 2018.

Here is the official FDA publication of January 16, 2018:

The Federal Register:  https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/01/16/2018-00555/clarification-of-when-products-made-or-derived-from-tobacco-are-regulated-as-drugs-devices-or

 

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FDA Fails to Cite Big Pharma Opioid Drug Makers for False Marketing and Advertisements

“PROFITS BEFORE PATIENTS REIGNS SUPREME AT FDA”

By Mark A. York (December 12, 2017)

Purdue Pharma and OxyContin Never Warned By FDA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(MASS TORT NEXUS MEDIA)  In the midst of a national opioid crisis, the federal agency that monitors drug ads has issued a record low number of warning letters to pharmaceutical companies caught lying about their products.

The Food and Drug Administration has sent just three notice letters to drug makers busted for false marketing their medications to unknowing consumers, the lowest ever since the FDA historic decision to ease strict rules for drug ads in 1997. “It certainly raises questions,” said Dr. David Kessler, head of the FDA from late 1990 through 1996, who’s industry credentials would add weight to the issue of why the FDA is not doing more to monitor false marketing campaigns by Big Pharma and Opioid Drug makers in particular.

The FDA’s Office of Prescription Drug Promotion monitors all ads drug companies issue to make sure patients aren’t being scammed by false assertions or misleading marketing campaigns. Which now seems to be the norm, based on the hundreds of lawsuits filed against Opioid Drug Makers in the last 3 months, and recently consolidated into Opiate Prescription MDL 2804 see Opioid Crisis Briefcase-Mass Tort Nexus, where Big Pharma is being sued by states, cities and counties across the country. The primary claim in almost every suit is long term boardroom coordinated false marketing campaigns designed to push opioid drug prescriptions at any cost.

BILLIONS IN PROFITS

The pharmaceutical industry spent a vast $6.4 billion in “direct-to-consumer” advertisements to hype new drugs in 2016, according tracking firm Kantar Media. That figure has gone up by 62% since 2012, Kantar Media says. This number may seem large at first but compared to the multi-billions in yearly profits just by opioid manufacturers over the last 15 years, the numbers is small.  Corporate earnings have risen every years since the push to increase opioid prescriptions in every way possible became an accepted business model Big Pharma boardrooms across the counrty.

FDA PLEADS NO STAFF

But the agency has long struggled to keep track of the thousands of ads published each year, largely due to lack of staff.

There are approximately 60 FDA staffers responsible for keeping track of at least 75,000 ads and other promotional material published each year. Although in the age of electronic monitoring and hi-tech tracking of data it would seem that monitoring drugs such as Schedule 2 – 4 narcotics or other drugs that are considered high risk for abuse, the FDA could create a quarterly e-review or a flagging system when new campaigns are started by Big Pharma.

“It’s a very, very small unit,” a former high-ranking FDA official said. “It’s historically been underfunded.” Which seems to support the contention that Washington D.C lawmakers are in the pockets of Big Pharma and the hundreds of lobbyists they utilize to ensure a true lack of oversight in the pharmaceutical industry as a whole.

Additionally, many of the ads are submitted to the FDA for review at the same time they begin to run. So by the time the assessment is complete the ad has “already had a significant impact,” the FDA insider said. This policy flies in the face of the creation regulatory oversight based on the fact that when a problem or an issue with a product is discovered, the FDA, EPA or other agency should enforce the law and correct the problem. In the case of the FDA, that is not happening and Big Pharma is and has been aware of the lack of oversight for years.

Critics say the FDA needs to do more to stay on top of an industry with a history of trying to maximize profits by at times misleading consumers, which has recently been described as a policy of “patients before patients” which has resulted in the current Opioid Crisis that’s firmly in place across the United States.

The number of public admonishment letters has been at or close to single digits from 2014 until 2016 during the Obama administration, records show. The FDA sent out 11 of those caution missives in 2016, nine in 2015 and 2014, and 24 in 2013.

A SINGLE FDA WARNING IN 2016

This year, one of the warning letters was sent to Canadian drugmaker Cipher Pharmaceuticals, ordering it stop using deceptive promotional material to hawk its extended-release opioid ConZip.

The ad failed to note “any risk information” highlighting the potentially addictive nature of the powerful painkiller, the FDA letter issued Aug. 24 said. The promotional material was also misleading because it asserted other treatment options “are inadequate,” the oversight agency concluded.

“By omitting…serious and potentially fatal risks, the detail aid…creates a misleading impression about the drug’s safety, a concern heightened by the serious public health impacts of opioid addiction, abuse and misuse,” the FDA said.

The agency demanded that Cipher “immediately cease misbranding” the medication. The drug company responded by yanking the promotional material, the firm’s execs said in a statement issued after the warning letter was made public.

But that was the single caution letter issued to an overhyped painkiller by the FDA this year so far, records show. The other caution letters were sent to Amherst Pharmaceuticals for the insomnia drug Zolpimist, and to Orexigen Therapeutics Inc. for its weight loss drug Contrave.

There are many long term FDA and other senior DC officials who have for whatever reasons, chosen to defer reigning in Big Pharma sales and marketing abuses and now it appears the corrective action has been undertaken in federal courts across the country by mass tort lawyers in litigation which will apparently make the “Tobacco Litigation” of the 1980’s pale in financial comparison.

With the primary lawsuits recently consolidated by in the Multidistrict Litigation titled “National Prescription Opiate Litigation” Case No. MDL 2804, recently assigned to the US District Court, Northern District of Ohio.  With the key case heading including “prescription and opiate” which reflects the federal court recognizing that opiate prescriptions have become such a major issue the federal courts will now determine the penalties assessed against Big Pharma. The focus will be on the long term “sales and marketing campaigns” designed in corporate boardrooms of Fortune 100 companies, to increase corporate profits, while ignoring the known catastrophic increases in addictions and other inter-connected healthcare, economic and social upheavels caused by the flood of opioid drugs in the US market.

The FDA maintains that letters to drug companies are merely one tool the agency uses to keep the pharmaceutical industry in line.

“We have many efforts to encourage compliance by industry, including our work on guidance, by providing advice to companies on draft promotional materials, and outreach to our stakeholders,” FDA spokeswoman Stephanie Caccomo said. “The FDA’s priorities regarding prescription drug promotion are policy and guidance development, labeling reviews, core launch and TV ad reviews, training and communications and enforcement.” The key terms referred to by Ms. Caccamo are “guidance and by providing advice” from the FDA, when direct enforcement actions are required, as Big Pharma see the terms “guidance and advice” as harmless and not applicable to their efforts to increase sales and profits. In-house lawyers at Big Pharma have reviewed FDA enforcement failures and offered opinions to the boardrooms for years about the FDA not willing to enforce anything close to restrictions on opioid drug marketing and sale practices, all the while reaping the profits of the opioid crisis.

US DEPT OF JUSTICE INDICTMENTS

While the FDA has failed, the US Department of Justice has launched a massive crackdown on opiate drug makers including indictments of company executives, sales & marketing personnel as well as the doctors and pharmacies that have enabled the flood of easy access narcotics into the US market for over 15 years. The question is “how and why” did the FDA drop the ball or was this an intentional lack of enforcement and oversight by the FDA and other agencies due to Big Pharma influence over Congressional members who would blunt any true oversight of drug companies.

US CONGRESS IS NOT HELPING

Perhaps a look at former US Representative Tom Price, will provide insight into how our lawmakers work within the healthcare industry. Rep. Price was appointed by President Trump to head the Department of Health and Human Services, which the FDA reports to, was forced to resign as HHS head due to various transgression within 6 months of being appointed, as well as leaks that while a sitting congressman he enacted a bill favoring a medical device makers extension of a multi-year government contract. Not only did Price enact the bill, he purchased stock in the company prior to the bill introduction and secured a massive profit on the stock price increase after the contract extension was announced. In normal business circles this is considered “insider trading” and is illegal, but when you’re one of those people in charge of creating the rules and regulations, there’s an apparent “get out of jail card” that comes with your congressional seat.

As long as the US Congress fails to correct the lack of oversight by the FDA and other regulatory agencies into what and how dangerous drugs and products are placed into the US marketplace, there will always be bad drugs entering the healthcare pipeline in the United States, with the now enduring default misnomer of “Profits Before Patients” firmly in place in boardrooms and within our government.

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Chicago Asks Federal Judge For Janssen Employee Marketing Records In Opioid Lawsuit

By Mark A. York (November 3, 2017)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chicago Is Now Three Years Into it’s Suit Against Opioid Drug Manufacturers

(Mass Tort Nexus)  In the case of City of Chicago v. Purdue Pharma LP et al., Case No. 1:14-cv-04361 U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, the City of Chicago has requested the judge order Janssen Pharmaceuticals to turn over records of 10 employees that contain information related to the city’s claims that the drug company and others marketed opioids inappropriately.

In a motion to compel Janssen to produce the documents, Chicago said that Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. should include the employee related documents who were responsible for its opioid marketing, as the custodians of electronically stored information that can be searched for the relevant documents. So far, Janssen has refused to offer up the records or the employees in discovery requests, with Chicago stating “the company’s reasons are baseless” in the heavily redacted filing. Their claim that the custodians are ‘duplicative’ finds no support in Janssen’s own documents,” Chicago stated in the pleadings.

SUIT CLAIMS JANSSEN MISLED DOCTORS

Chicago sued Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Purdue Pharma LP, Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries Ltd., and other opioid manufacturers in 2014, saying they misled doctors and the public about the addictive nature of opioids and pushed prescriptions despite known dangers of addiction. As a result, the city claims that it paid for thousands of medically unnecessary prescriptions for city employees.

Janssen argues that including these employees would be “duplicative,” but it’s unlikely that employees working in the same area would carry out the same tasks in a way that would make their documents the same, the city said.

“Janssen has complained of the yet unproven ‘burden’ of searching the files of additional custodians,” the city said. “Janssen offers no specifics in support of this argument.”
Janssen hasn’t declared the size or scope of the additional data in the electronic files, nor has it shared with the city any costs for searching through more employees’ information, the searches are generally standard and it’s probable all the requested data has been collected in some format, Janssen is just playing hardball in giving it up.
“It merely argues that it has collected ‘nearly a terabyte’ of data from unspecified sources and therefore refuses to collect and search anymore,” this is not a valid argument as the collection of massive amounts of data in complex litigation is standard practice and the process is very well defined in cases of this type.
“Chicago has identified more than 125 parties whose files it will search for responsive electronically stored information. Janssen has agreed to search only 17 custodians,” according to the city “In contrast, the Endo defendants have agreed to search 62 ESI custodians and the Actavis defendants have agreed to search 43 ESI custodians.”

LOCAL GOVERNMENTS IN OPIOID MDL

The city’s suit is one of a number filed by municipalities over the ongoing opioid epidemic, there is now a Motion to Consolidate the “Opiate Prescription Litigation as MDL 2804” (see OPIOID CRISIS: MDL 2804 OPIATE PRESCRIPTION LITIGATION) pending before the Joint Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, set for November 30th in St. Louis. In addition, the Cherokee Nation tribe gas filed against the drug makers, and at least one class action was filed on behalf of individuals in Arkansas, which has been placed on hold pending the outcome of the JPML motion hearing in St. Louis on November 30th.

More than 40 state attorneys general have also launched a joint investigation into at least half a dozen opiate drugmakers and distributors and many are close to moving forward in not only civil claims but looking very closely at potential criminal charges. The state AGs’ probe initially focused on OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, now widened to include other opioid drugmakers and distributors such as Endo, Allergen, McKesson and Teva.

CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIONS

The US Department of Justice is now pursuing criminal charges against select opioid drug manufacturers in Massachusetts, where Insys Therapeutics, Inc. is under indictment. In a surprise move, the US Attorney’s office in Connecticut has opened a criminal review of Oxycontin maker, Purdue Pharma, LP, and it’s opioid drug marketing practices.

“We look forward to fully responding to this latest motion once we have the opportunity to review it with counsel,” stated Janssen, “We recognize opioid abuse is a serious public health issue that must be addressed. At the same time, we firmly believe the allegations in these lawsuits are both legally and factually unfounded

As the legal heat is turned up across the country on opioid drug manufactures, it remains to be seen how they will react to what is being termed as a repeat of the legal strategy followed in the massive and financially damaging “Tobacco Litigation.”

 

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Johnson & Johnson and DePuy Pinnacle Hip Implant Trial Continued Until September 18th Based on Appeal

Johnson & Johnson and DePuy Orthopaedics Latest “Pinnacle Hip Implant Trial” Continued Until September 18th Based on Fifth Circuit Appeal 

  • By Mark A. York (September 15, 2017)

  • Mass Tort Nexus

 

 

 

 

 

The latest bellwether trial in the  DePuy Pinnacle MDL 2244 (see DePuy Pinnacle Hip Implant MDL 2244 Briefcase) litigation has been postponed until September 18th, based on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruling, just days before the trial was to start, where they cited “grave error” by the sitting US District Court judge, in requesting a trial delay. The trial start date was September 5th, where eight plaintiffs from New York were part of the DePuy Pinnacle MDL 2255 multidistrict litigation, who are now facing jurisdictional issues based on the June 2017 SCOTUS “Plavix Ruling” that restricts jurisdiction over plaintiffs who are residents of another state, SCOTUS Plavix Jurisdictional Ruling Strikes Non-Resident CA Plaintiffs. The Plavix ruling forced thousands of non-California residents to determine if and where they can refile their claims against Bristol-Myers Squibb. DePuy Orthopaedics and it’s parent Johnson & Johnson (J&J) are asserting the Plavix ruling by stating that the New York residents are not subject to jurisdiction of the US District Court ND Texas and the trial should be stopped. This seems to fly in the face of the justification of certain tenants of the Joint Panel on Multidistrict Litigation rules of procedure, which assigned the DePuy Pinnacle Hip Implant cases to the Texas court to consolidate the many thousands of cases across the country.

 J&J Wants To Avoid More Massive Trial Verdicts

J&J are simply using evry legal tool available, in an attempt to avoid another massive jury verdict like the one in the December 2016 Pinnacle Hip Implant trial, where California plaintiffs were awarded $1 billion in punitive damages, which the court subsequently reduced to $500 million on appeal. DePuy and J&J want to restrict plaintiffs in any way they can, as J&J is facing massive verdicts in other ongoing federal and state court cases related to it’s various other medical device and pharmaceutical product lines.

Appeals Panel Denies Writ of Mandamus Petition

On August 23rd, the Fifth Circuit panel denied Johnson & Johnson’s and DePuy Orthopaedics’ petition for writ of mandamus, which sought to halt the upcoming trial. However, two of the three panel members found that the judge proceeding over the consolidated DePuy Pinnacle litigation in Texas had allowed certain trials to take place before him which a “judicial error” including the one that as scheduled to begin yesterday where plaintiffs were New York residents. On September 1st, U.S. District Court Judge Ed Kinkeade of the Northern District of Texas issued an Order delaying the next DePuy Pinnacle hip replacement trial until September 18, 2017.

DePuy Pinnacle Hip Verdicts

The multidistrict litigation underway in the Northern District of Texas, DePuy Pinnacle MDL 2244, currently involves more than 9,000 hip replacement lawsuits related to the metal-on-metal version of DePuy Orthopedics’ Pinnacle hip system that utilizes the Ultamet liner. Plaintiffs claim that this configuration is defectively designed, as it sheds toxic metals into the joint surround the hip, as well as the blood stream, causing adverse local tissue reactions, metallosis, pseudotumor formation, and other complications that necessitate the need for revision surgery to replace the joint.

As of August 2017, MDL 2244 Pinnacle hip litigation has convened three bellwether trials. The first concluded in October 2014, with a verdict for DePuy and Johnson & Johnson.

In March 2016, five plaintiffs were awarded a total of $500 million at the close of the second DePuy Pinnacle trial, where the judge overseeing the case reduced the award to $151 million, in order to comply with Texas law governing punitive damages.

The largest hip implant trial verdict anywhere to date was in the DePuy MDL’s third bellwether trial which ended December 2, 2016, where six Pinnacle implant recipients, who were California residents, were awarded more than $1 billion in punitive damages, see $1 billion DePuy Hip Implant Verdict in MDL 2244, with the judgment later reduced to $543 million, by Judge Kinkeade.

DePuy Metal-on-Metal Hip Implant Issues

In January 2013, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration warned that metal-on-metal hip replacements were associated with higher rates of early failure compared to those constructed from other materials.  Last year, the FDA finalized a new regulation requiring the manufacturers of two types of metal-on-metal hips to submit a premarket approval (PMA) application if they wanted to continue marketing their current devices and/or market a new implant.

In August 2010, DePuy Orthopaedics announced a recall of its ASR metal-on-metal hip replacement system, after data indicated the hips were associated with a higher-than-expected rate of premature failure.  Plaintiffs who have filed Pinnacle hip lawsuits question why the company has not taken similar action in regards to the Pinnacle/Ultamet liner combination.

In May 2013, DePuy Orthopaedics did announce that it would phase out metal-on-metal hip implants, including the device named in Pinnacle hip replacement lawsuits. According to The New York Times, the company cited slowing sales, as well as the FDA’s changing regulatory stance on all-metal hip implants, as factors in its decision.

 

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DePuy Pinnacle Hip Implant Trial Set for Today Delayed Based on Appellate Ruling of “Grave Error” By Sitting Judge

DePuy Pinnacle Hip Implant Bellwether Trial Set For September 5th Delayed After Appeals Court Cites Grave Error By Judge

 

 

 

 

 

DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson

By Mark A. York (September 5, 2017)

Federal Judge Ed Kinkeade has delayed the next DePuy Pinnacle hip implant bellwether trial that was set for today, Sept. 5, 2017 until later this month after a split federal appeals panel requested that he halt the proceedings due to a “grave error.”

In the August 31st opinion, two of three judges on a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit refused to grant a petition for writ of mandamus filed by DePuy Orthopaedics Inc. to halt the trial. But two of the three also concluded that U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade, who is presiding over 9,300 cases alleging DePuy’s Pinnacle hip implants are defective, committed a “grave error” in allowing certain trials to take place before him, including the one scheduled this month on behalf of eight New York plaintiffs.

Opinion Outline

The opinion stated “despite finding serious error, a majority of this panel denies the writ that petitioners seek to prohibit the district court from proceeding to trial on plaintiffs’ cases,” wrote Circuit Judge Jerry Smith. “A majority requests the district court to vacate its ruling on waiver and to withdraw its order for a trial beginning September 5, 2017.”

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom lead counsel for Johnson & Johnson, DePuy’s parent company, called on Judge Kinkeade to halt the trial, which is the fourth bellwether in the multidistrict litigation over the DePuy Pinnacle hip implant. This may help DePuy and J&J avoid a repeat of the last Pinnacle verdict in the prior bellwether trial where a Dallas jury awarded over $1 billion in damages, subsequently reduced by Judge Kinkeade, see DePuy Pinnacle Hip Implant Dec 2016 Trial Verdict Halved to Just $500 million in December 2016, which DePuy-J&J are appealing.

“We are pleased that the Fifth Circuit has determined that the MDL court does not have jurisdiction to conduct its planned trial of the claims of eight New York plaintiffs in a Texas courtroom,” Beisner wrote in an emailed statement after the ruling.

Plaintiff Counsel Surprised

Lead plaintiffs attorney Mark Lanier called it the “wildest opinion I’ve ever seen.”

“What this small panel has tried to do is change the law in the Fifth Circuit on a mandamus record, and that’s really frowned about,” said Lanier, of The Lanier Law Firm in Houston, who was joined in the appeal by former U.S. Solicitor General Kenneth Starr.

In addition to this month’s trial, the ruling could impact a separate case before the Fifth Circuit in which Johnson & Johnson has raised the same venue arguments in appealing a $1.04 billion verdict in the most recent Pinnacle trial. Oral argument on that appeal hasn’t yet been scheduled.

“Why this court issues an order on another court’s case, which is just an advisory opinion, is just absurd,” said Lanier. “It’s judicial activism.”

Lanier filed a petition for rehearing en banc on Friday. Later that afternoon, Kinkeade ordered the trial delayed until Sept. 18.

Final Bellwether trial

Kinkeade appeared to anticipate the Fifth Circuit’s intervention. On Aug. 25, he ordered that this month’s trial would “be the final bellwether case tried in the Dallas division of the Northern District of Texas” under which both sides have waived venue.  This was an unexpected ruling for the Pinnacle litigation, where Johnson & Johnson has appealed two other verdicts in Kinkeade’s courtroom, both involving consolidated cases that led to major awards in 2016,. Johnson & Johnson won the first verdict in 2014. But a second trial ended with a verdict of $502 million awarded to five Texas plaintiffs, while the third gave $1.04 billion verdict to six California plaintiffs.

All DePuy Hip Implant Litigation

These cases are part of the 8,707 actions consolidated before Judge Kinkeade in MDL 2244, In re DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc., Pinnacle Hip Implant Products Liability Litigation, Case No. 3:11-md-02244, Northern District of Texas in Dallas.

Juries have found that DePuy and J&J have negligently designed the hip implant, failed to warn surgeons about dangerous conditions related to the implant, and concealed its risks. J&J stopped selling the devices in 2013 after the FDA issued a safety communication about artificial-hip damages.

Separately, DuPuy is facing 1,458 product liability actions consolidated before US District Judge Jeffrey J. Helmick in MDL 2197, In re: DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc., ASR Hip Implant Products Liability Litigation in Toledo, Ohio.

J&J prevailed in the first Pinnacle hip case to go to trial in October 2014 after a jury rejected a Montana woman’s claims that the devices were defective and gave her metal poisoning. In March 2016, a Dallas jury ordered J&J to pay $502 million to a group of five patients who accused the company of hiding defects in the hips. A judge cut that verdict in July to about $150 million.

DePuy Claims “Lexecon” Error

DePuy and Johnson & Johnson have argued that Kinkeade lacked jurisdiction over the trials involving California and New York plaintiffs. MDL judges are assigned to oversee pretrial matters with the intention of sending cases back to their original courts for trial. But defendants often waive that right under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1998 holding in Lexecon v. Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach, which allows bellwether trials to proceed before an MDL judge.

Johnson & Johnson claims it waived that right as to the first and second trials, but not the third or fourth. Plaintiffs’ attorneys have insisted that Johnson & Johnson agreed to a global waiver over all the trials.

Mass Tort Nexus will provide additional details of the ongoing trial dispute as information becomes available.

 

 

 

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