Federal Fluoroquinolone Litigation Looks Ahead to Bellwether Trials

Published on January 23, 2017 by Sandy Liebhard

Lawsuits filed on behalf of individuals who developed peripheral neuropathy allegedly related to the use of Cipro and Avelox could start going to trial next year, according to an Order issued last week in Minnesota federal court.  Verdicts in these so-called bellwether trials may provide insight into how juries will rule in similar fluoroquinolone lawsuits.

There are currently more than 700 cases pending in the U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota, where all federal peripheral neuropathy lawsuits involving Levaquin, Cipro and Avelox have been centralized for the purposes of coordinated pretrial proceedings. In an Order dated January 17th, the Court indicated that it would convene trials in four Avelox lawsuits beginning next year. Those trials are scheduled to start on August 6, 2018, October 8, 2018, February 4, 2019, and June 10, 2019. Two Cipro lawsuits will also head to trial on December 3, 2018, and April 8, 2019.

Bellwether Trial Selections

The order directs the parties to each identify four Avelox bellwether candidates and four Cipro bellwether candidates. Cases eligible for selection include all Avelox-only and Cipro-only lawsuits pending in the federal litigation as of April 21, 2016, and in which the plaintiff has served a substantially complete Plaintiff Fact Sheet. The plaintiff’s Short Form Complaint must alleges  that (1) the  injuries are peripheral neuropathy or symptoms of peripheral neuropathy only and (2) the plaintiff sustained injuries only from branded antibiotic usage.

The Court will narrow the parties’ selections down to a group of four Avelox lawsuits at the October 2017 case management conference, while the Cipro selections will be cut to two by the December 2017 conference. Those claims will then be prepared for trial.

Fluoroquinolones and Peripheral Neuropathy

Fluoroquinolone antibiotics, including Levaquin, Avelox and Cipro, are approved to treat a number of serious bacterial infections, including pneumonia and certain sexually transmitted diseases. In August 2013, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) ordered the drugs’ manufacturers to modify label information regarding the potential for fluoroquinolones to cause peripheral neuropathy. While mention of the condition had been added to the prescribing information in 2004, the agency determined that the labels did not reflect the possible rapid onset of the condition, or the potential for permanence.

Plaintiffs pursuing lawsuits against fluoroquinolone manufacturers claim that the association between peripheral neuropathy and antibiotics was known in the 1990s, and accuse defendants of intentionally concealing this information from patients and doctors. They also contend that the current labelling remains “inadequate and confusing.”

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