The federal judge overseeing Zantac lawsuits has postponed an initial conference scheduled for this Friday, amid ongoing quarantines for the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19.
According to a Pretrial Order issued on March 13, 2020, in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida, interviews of Zantac attorneys seeking appointment to the plaintiffs’ leadership team have also been postponed indefinitely. Those interviews were scheduled to take place on March 19th.
Despite the unprecedented situation created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Court indicated that the Zantac litigation should continue to move forward to the greatest extent possible.
“In the intervening weeks, the parties should work together to identify areas in which they agree as to how this case can most efficiently be litigated by the parties and managed by the Court and begin working toward making meaningful progress in those areas,” U.S. District Judge Robin L. Rosenberg wrote. “Similarly, this time also provides the parties with the opportunity to identify those areas in which they do not agree and spend time working through those disagreements to find areas of common ground.”
For now, all Zantac lawsuit deadlines previously put in place will remain, with the exception of the March 16th deadline for submitting a proposed agenda, as well as the March 18th deadline for the submission of all materials. Instead, the parties must email Judge Rosenberg a joint letter outlining a proposal for work to be done between now and May 1, 2020.
There are just under 200 Zantac lawsuits pending in the multidistrict litigation now underway in the Southern District of Florida. However, legal experts believe that the proceeding will eventually grow to include hundreds, if not thousands of similar claims.
The filings include personal injury lawsuits filed on behalf of patients who developed cancer after using Zantac (ranitidine) that was allegedly contaminated with N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), a probable human carcinogen, as well as consumer class actions that seek refunds and other economic damages for purchasers of tainted drugs.
Zantac lawsuits began to mount last fall, shortly after the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) notified the public that high levels of NDMA had been detected in some samples of ranitidine. NDMA is an environmental contaminant found in water and foods, including meats, dairy and vegetables. Animal testing has linked NDMA exposure to an increased risk of cancer, especially kidney, liver, and gastrointestinal cancers.
The FDA was informed of the issue by Valisure, an online pharmacy that conducts batch testing of every medication it sells. Valisure subsequently petitioned the agency for a Zantac recall, noting that some Zantac and ranitidine samples contained levels of NDMA far above the recommended daily limit of 96 nanograms. The company also asserted that the instability of the ranitidine molecule resulted in the production of NDMA when Zantac was subjected to conditions that mimic human digestion.
While the FDA’s own tests have since found unacceptable levels NDMA in some Zantac products, the agency has yet to determine whether or not ranitidine produces the compound in the human stomach.
Zantac and other ranitidine products have not been subject to a global recall, but many individual drug makers have conducted voluntary recalls in recent months. The medications have also been removed from store shelves by most major retailers, including CVS, Walmart, Walgreens, and Rite-Aid.