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First Xarelto Bellwether Trial Comes to a Close

On Wednesday, a jury returned a verdict for the defense in the first of a series of bellwether trials for thousands of consolidated Xarelto lawsuits.

Bloomberg reports that the federal jury in New Orleans cleared drug makers Johnson & Johnson (and their Janssen subsidiary) and Bayer AG of liability in the Xarelto lawsuit filed by a Louisiana man named Joseph Boudreaux.

This lawsuit was the first of a series of “test” or bellwether trials in a multidistrict litigation (MDL) that centralizes more than 18,000 Xarelto lawsuits before U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. In December 2014, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation issued a transfer order to form the Xarelto MDL, allowing for coordinated pretrial proceedings before Judge Fallon in an effort to reduce duplicative discovery, prevent conflicting rulings from separate judges, and to serve the convenience of all parties involved. One of the final phases of an MDL involves the selection and hearing of bellwether trials. Cases used for bellwether trials are based on facts and claims common to a greater number of cases in the MDL, and jury responses to evidence and testimony used in these early trials may lead to settlement proposals for additional claims.

Like many other plaintiffs in Xarelto lawsuits, Joseph Boudreaux claimed that drug makers Bayer and J&J did not provide adequate warnings of known risks and side effects associated with their drug. Xarelto (rivaroxaban) is a member of a newer generation of blood thinners and was approved by the FDA in 2011. Xarelto and other anticoagulants may be prescribed to individuals at a high risk for dangerous blood clots, and these newer blood thinners were seen by many patients as a superior alternative to warfarin (Coumadin), which was the go-to drug since the 1950s. Patients taking warfarin are required to undergo regular blood monitoring to ensure that they retain a safe level of clotting factors in their bodies, and this can feel inconvenient. Additionally, since warfarin has been in heavy use for decades, most patients are well aware of this drug’s association with internal bleeding side effects. Now, some claim that Xarelto promotions led them to believe that Xarelto was less likely to cause internal bleeding than warfarin, which is not the case.

In addition to the fact that all blood thinners present a risk of internal bleeding (since they are designed to prevent blood clots), plaintiffs in Xarelto lawsuits claim that drug makers should have made it clear to them that there is no reversal agent to stop Xarelto bleeding. Patients who develop a bleed while taking warfarin may be helped by a dose of Vitamin K, but no Xarelto antidote has been approved yet. To many plaintiffs, this makes warfarin appear to be a safer option—and one they may have chosen if they knew all the facts. Furthermore, it has now been suggested in medical research that routine blood monitoring may help to prevent some Xarelto side effects, and plaintiffs believe they should have been informed of this, as well.

In the case of Mr. Boudreaux, the jury ruled that warning labels and prescribing information on Xarelto are adequate and that the drug makers were not liable for the gastrointestinal bleeding Mr. Boudreaux suffered. According to Reuters, Bayer said in a statement, “The jury’s verdict affirms both the safety and efficacy of Xarelto, and that its FDA-approved label contains accurate, science-based information on the benefits and risks of this life-saving medicine.”

However, thousands of plaintiffs, their loved ones, and their dedicated attorneys still assert that Bayer and Janssen have misrepresented “science” to benefit them and increase profits from Xarelto. As one attorney for Mr. Boudreaux and other plaintiffs stated in closing arguments, “They (drug makers) only accept science they like, and decide to ignore science they don’t like. They know if they require a blood test, they’re terrified doctors will just use another drug.”

The next bellwether trial in the Xarelto MDL will be for the lawsuit filed by Joseph Orr, whose wife died of a brain hemorrhage roughly one month after she began taking Xarelto, and is set to begin in Louisiana later this month.

Though bellwether trial verdicts can have a notable impact on additional cases in an MDL, plaintiffs in Xarelto lawsuits may still have good reason to hope after Wednesday’s loss. As attorneys for Mr. Boudreaux and other plaintiffs stated on Wednesday, “As always, we will learn from the experience of this trial, and continue to press forward with the legal claims of thousands of innocent victims whose lives have been shattered by Xarelto.” Another attorney said, “We never expected the struggle to be an easy one. We realize Bayer and Janssen have a lot of resources and a lot of motivation to protect Xarelto.”

Every case is different, as is every jury, and individuals who believe they have suffered injury or the loss of a loved one because they were not properly warned of Xarelto side effects may still be able to recover compensation. To learn more, please contact our attorneys for a free Xarelto lawsuit consultation.