Mass Tort Spike due to Risperdal

A mass tort program, Risperdal, could be the cause of Philadelphia’s recent high level increase in pharmaceutical inventory.

According to recent statistics from the First Judicial District regarding Philadelphia’s Complex Litigation Center, mass tort litigations have reached a staggering 5,601 pharmaceutical cases. In 2012, the court had aimed to begin making changes to theses pharmaceutical cases in order to start clearing the mass tort inventory. These pharmaceutical cases have been pending since the beginning of 2017, which is 200 more than in 2012.

Two pharmaceutical programs to see an increase in litigations since 2016 are Risperdal, an antipsychotic drug. and Xarelto, a blood thinner. However, the litigation over Reglan is still the largest mass tort program in Philadelphia. In 2016 about 6 to 100 percent of inventory was lost from all the remaining pharmaceuticals mass torts.

Xarelto, experienced the largest growth throughout 2016 with a 121 percent increase with 664 cases. Since the beginning of 2017 there have been 1,214 cases of Xarelto pending. Michael Weinkowitz, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, said the current program does not expect any further growth.

“We represented to the court that there would be about 1,000 cases, and we’re there,” Weinkowitz said. “We’ve reached a point where I don’t think there will be many more filings.”

According to a lead attorney in the litigation Risperdal grew by 550 cases and he states there are still more cases waiting.

Expected inventory by Thomas R. Kline, of Kline & Specter along with attorneys from Arnold & Itkin and Sheller P.C., leaders of the litigation, said it on its way to be above 2,000. Kline’s group have filed a total of 545 new cases into the program within the past two months.

A recent decision was made to end a tolling agreement by Janssen, the primary defendant in the Risperdal and Xarelto litigations. This decision according to Kline was the reason behind the recent increase. Kline, does not know why the agreement ended but he said, it ended in July after a Philadelphia jury awarded a man $70 million over his injury related to Risperdal.

A spokeswoman for Janssen, Jessica Castles Smith, did not have a comment as to why the agreement ended, she only added that Janssen will continue its defense where appropriate in the litigation.

In an email statement made by Castles Smith she said, “We do not have insight into plaintiffs’ choices regarding when and where they initiate lawsuits, what we do know is that Risperdal, when used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan, continues to help millions of patients with mental illnesses and neurodevelopment conditions.”

The court made some administrative changes in 2012 to combat the growing backlog of cases. They ended reverse bifurcation of cases and added a restriction on consolidation of pharmaceutical cases.

To ensure the Risperdal cases do not linger, since they are continually on the rise, Kline said he is going to advocate for more consolidation of trials among other administrative changes.

“The older the inventory becomes, the more significant a problem it is for the courts, but an even greater problem for the clients awaiting justice,” Kline said. “The court is obliged not to throw up its hands, but roll up its sleeves, which [Supervising Judge Arnold New] will ably do, I’m sure.”

However, Defense attorney Jim Beck of Reed Smith, suggests the court should focus on administrative changes that would make the law less appealing to plaintiffs.

The constant increase in inventory might be short lived according to Beck. He states the case Bristol-Myers Squibb v. Superior Court (Anderson), which the court will hear has the possibility to prevent plaintiffs from filing cases in jurisdictions not in defendant’s specified location.

“It should shrink out-of-state inventories everywhere,” Beck said. “This will affect the inventory. This is something that’s hanging over its head.”

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