The federal multidistrict litigation established for what could eventually be hundreds of Zantac lawsuits will convene an Initial Conference on March 20, 2020.
According to a Pretrial Order issued in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida, on February 15th, the conference will get underway at 9:00 a.m.
“Counsel shall confer and seek consensus to the extent possible with respect to the items on the agenda, including a proposed discovery plan, amendment of pleadings, consideration of any class action allegations, and motions, and be prepared to discuss the mode of trial,” the Order states. “If the parties have any suggestions as to any case management orders or additional agenda items, these shall be filed in this case as a ‘Notice of Filing Suggested Case Management Orders and/or Additional Agenda Items’ on or before March 6, 2020.”
The Order further notes that the Court is considering an initial census of all filed and unfiled Zantac lawsuits. An “Initial Census Team” made up of a small number of attorneys will determine the best timing and content for the survey, and how to best organize and implement data analytics in the cases. Once selected, the team must file its draft proposal for an initial census on or before March 16, 2020.
Plaintiffs’ and defense counsel have also been directed to each submit a brief written Position Statement outlining their understanding of the facts involved in the Zantac lawsuits and the critical factual and legal issues central to the litigation. The statement should also list all pending motions, as well as all related cases pending in state or federal court, together with their current status, including any discovery taken to date, to the extent known. Finally, the parties are each permitted to identify two expert witnesses who will be available within the next several months to participate in a Science Day. Each side’s Position Statement is due on or before March 6, 2020.
The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation centralized all federally filed Zantac lawsuits in the Southern District of Florida earlier this month. The litigation currently consists of nine individual lawsuits that allege medications contaminated with N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) caused various cancers, as well as six consumer class actions seeking economic damages for Zantac purchases. However, plaintiffs’ attorneys have predicted that the docket will eventually grow to include hundreds of such claim.
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) notified the public that Zantac and other ranitidine-containing heartburn drugs could be contaminated with NDMA, a probable human carcinogen, last Fall. The agency was informed of the problem by Valisure, an online pharmacy that tests every medication lot it sells. While the company maintains that the presence of NDMA resulted from the instability of the ranitidine molecule, which purportedly degrades when subjected to the conditions created by digestion, the FDA is still working to determine if Zantac produces the carcinogen in the human stomach.
Last month, Emery Pharma notified the agency that its tests suggested ranitidine produces unacceptably high levels of NDMA when exposed to heat for as little as five days, even after the drug has been packaged.
While the FDA has not ordered a Zantac recall, various drug makers have chosen to voluntarily remove their ranitidine products from the market. Most major retailers – including CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, and Rite-Aid, have also pulled the heartburn medications from store shelves.