The federal court overseeing dozens of Zantac lawsuits has rescheduled the litigation’s Initial Conference and plaintiffs’ leadership interviews, both of which were postponed due to the global coronavirus pandemic.
According to an Order issued in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida, the litigation’s Initial Conference, which was set for March 20th, will now be convened on May 12th at 9:00 a.m. However, participants will not be appearing in person, as the proceeding will be held as a videoconference.
“There will be a court reporter in attendance at the conference and a transcript will be made of the conference,” the Order states. “The Court is continuing to work through the best manner in which to facilitate video and telephonic attendance and will provide connection information in a subsequent notification.”
The Court will conduct interviews for plaintiff’s leadership positions during four sessions to be convened on May 6th and May 7th. These interviews will also be conducted via video conference.
Zantac lawyers interested in appointments are to submit written disclosure statements answering several questions listed in the Order no later than 4:00 p.m. on April 16th. Because of the restrictions necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic, the statements are to be submitted via email and are not required to be notarized.
“The disclosure statements will be reviewed by the Court in conjunction with the Special Master,” the Order states. “The Special Master will be directed to investigate as she deems necessary to satisfy her as to whether any potential conflict could be created.”
Nearly 150 Zantac lawsuits are currently pending in the multidistrict litigation underway in Florida. However, considering the widespread popularity of Zantac and other ranitidine-containing heartburn drugs, many legal experts believe the proceeding will eventually grow to include hundreds – if not thousands – of similar claims. The current filings include personal injury lawsuits that seek compensation for cancer allegedly caused by contaminated Zantac, as well as class action complaints filed on behalf of consumers who purchased the medications.
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) began investigating the heartburn medications last year, after the online pharmacy Valisure notified the agency that it had detected Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) – a probable human carcinogen – in every sample of Zantac and ranitidine tested and often at levels that far exceeded the recommended daily limit of 96 nanograms.
At the time, Valisure asserted that NDMA resulted from the instability of the ranitidine molecule, which appeared to produce the carcinogen when subjected to conditions mimicking human digestion. In January, Emery Pharma announced that its own tests suggested ranitidine produced NDMA when subjected to high temperatures typically encountered during shipment and storage.
Earlier this month, the FDA confirmed that levels of NDMA can increase in ranitidine over time and ordered manufacturers to immediately recall all name-brand or generic Zantac products remaining on the market. But by that time, however, many drug makers had already issued voluntary Zantac recalls and several major retailers had pulled all ranitidine-containing medications from heir store shelves.