Plavix Litigation Grows, More Lawsuits Expected

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Forty lawsuits over the drug Plavix were filed in New Jersey state court and thousands more are expected to be filed within the coming months.  Litigation over the blood thinner is gaining momentum say plaintiffs’ attorneys.

Plavix was approved in 1997 for prevention of blood clots and to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.  At one point, the drug was the sixth top selling drug in the U.S., generating $8 billion annual sales.  

In March 2010, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a black box warning for Plavix stating certain patients with a genetic variation could not metabolize the drug and “may not receive the full benefit of Plavix treatment” putting them “at risk for heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular death.”

The Plavix litigation is expected to pick up in the next six months, and plaintiffs’ lawyers say phone calls from people inquiring about potential lawsuits have increased, reports Lawyer USA.

The lawsuits claim the makers of Plavix overstated its benefits, and point out that inexpensive aspirin (only $.04 per pill) works just as well as Plavix ($4.00 per pill).  Plaintiffs also allege defendants failed to warn about the elevated risk of heart attack, stroke and potentially fatal blood disorders, says Lawyers USA.

The statute of limitations is another reason for the escalation in lawsuits, which began to run when the March 2010 FDA warning was issued.  In certain jurisdictions the statute of limitations is two years, meaning plaintiff’s attorneys would need to file in early 2012.

The momentum of cases was slowed for several years as plaintiffs awaited the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Wyeth v. Levine.   The case addressed whether federal law preempts state law in personal injury claims against drug manufacturers; however, the Supreme Court held that federal law did not preempt the plaintiff’s state claim.

That delay is proving beneficial to plaintiffs, says Lawyers USA. “During that time, more science and more studies came out showing Plavix is not safe and not effective,” said an attorney representing Plavix plaintiffs.

Although the Supreme Court’s ruling in Wyeth proved a victory for plaintiff’s suing drug manufacturers, a new discovery order issued by the U.S. District Court in New Jersey may derail certain plaintiff’s claims.  The order prevents plaintiffs who filed cases before 2007 in federal court from obtaining documents after 2007, says Lawyers USA.  These documents include communications between the drug manufacturers and the FDA; ultimately depriving plaintiffs of evidence that demonstrates the drug manufacturers knew or should have known about the risks to patients.  However, that issue will not impact plaintiffs who filed Plavix lawsuits after 2007.