Product Liability Update: Panel Approves MDL in Low-T Cases

Product Liability Low-T Update:

A recent Order of the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation has resulted in the consolidation, transfer, and assignment of forty-five separate testosterone replacement therapy cases to the Honorable Matthew F. Kennelly, U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Illinois. This is potentially good news for those who may have suffered heart attacks after using testosterone products as well as their families, as Multidistrict Litigation ("MDL") helps to streamline the litigation process.

MDL involves the consolidation of individual complex cases with common questions of fact. The Judicial Panel transfers the cases to one district and assigns them to a particular judge. Unlike class actions, which involve multiple plaintiffs in a single action, MDL involves the centralization of separate cases pending in various district courts to a single court before a single judge.

The Order creating the Low-T MDL notes that this centralization "will reduce potentially costly expert discovery, facilitate the establishment of a uniform pretrial approach to these cases, reduce the potential for inconsistent rulings . . . , and conserve the resources of the parties, their counsel and the judiciary."

Low Testosterone or "Low-T" drugs have been heavily marketed in recent years. As a result, prescriptions for testosterone drugs have doubled in the past five years. Yet there may be cause for concern for those who have taken these medications.

Recent studies suggest that testosterone therapy may cause an increased risk of heart attack. One such study found that the risk of heart attack doubled in the three months following an initial prescription of a testosterone product in men aged sixty-five and older, regardless of whether they had a history of heart disease prior to beginning treatment. In men under the age of sixty-five with a history of heart disease, the risk of heart attack was found to be two to three times greater during the same period. The study concluded that "[t]aken together, the evidence supports an association between testosterone therapy and risk of serious, adverse cardiovascular-related events."

Moreover, in January 2014, the United States Food and Drug Administration ("FDA") issued a safety announcement stating that it is "investigating the risk of stroke, heart attack, and death in men taking FDA-approved testosterone products."

As the FDA explains, "[t]estosterone is a hormone essential to the development of male growth and masculine characteristics." The FDA has approved the use of testosterone products in men, but only when low testosterone levels or a lack of testosterone is associated with another medical condition. Examples of commonly prescribed testosterone drugs include AndroGel, Depo-Testosterone, and Fortesta.

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