Philadelphia’s mass tort program has seen a spike in cases largely thanks to one drug: Risperdal.
According to The Legal Intelligencer, the pharmaceutical inventory in Philadelphia is at its highest in years with 5,601 pharmaceutical cases pending as of Jan. 1. The increasing backlog is causing problems for the court, including extending the length of time it takes cases to be disposed of.
The antipsychotic drug Risperdal, made by Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals, is not the largest single mass tort program but it was one of only two pharmaceutical programs to see growth over 2016.
The blood thinning medication Xarelto saw the biggest surge with 664 new cases filed last year, a 121 percent increase throughout 2016. There are more than 1,000 cases pending against Johnson & Johnson, but attorneys believe it’s reached a peak.
“We represented to the court that there would be about 1,000 cases, and we’re there,” attorney Michael Weinkowitz, who represents several Xarelto plaintiffs, said to Max Mitchell. “We’ve reached a point where I don’t think there will be many more filings.”
Cases for Risperdal grew by 550 but thousands more are likely to come. The inventory is expected to rise above 2,000.
Part of the reason for the rise has to do with Janssen’s decision to end a tolling agreement, which prevents the public from knowing the number of cases in the system.
Thomas Kline, one of the attorneys for Risperdal litigation, said that decision came after $70 million was awarded to a man by a jury over injuries from Risperdal. In that case, a Tennessee teenager said the drug caused him to grow female-sized breasts. He was awarded damages for emotional distress.
A spokeswoman for Janssen, Jessica Castles Smith, told The Legal Intelligencer the company would not comment on the decision to end the tolling agreement but that it would continue to defend Risperdal in court.
“We do not have insight into plaintiffs’ choices regarding when and where they initiate lawsuits,” Castles Smith said in an emailed statement. “What we do know is that Risperdal, when used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan, continues to help millions of patients with mental illnesses and neurodevelopment conditions.”
Johnson & Johnson Faces More Than 100,000 Lawsuits
Philadelphia’s Complex Litigation Center is known for being well-managed and capable of handling mass torts efficiently, but it’s been burdened by a rise in lawsuits against Janssen’s parent company Johnson & Johnson.
In 2016, the company was hit with six of the seven largest product defect verdicts and 2017 could be even worse, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.
Johnson & Johnson faces at least 17 trials in state and federal courts around the country this year from plaintiffs who say its products caused injuries and death. The company also faces about 100,000 pending claims that are only expected to keep growing.
While litigation against pharmaceutical companies is nothing new, the mounting number of verdicts against the company is proving problematic. The negative verdicts, along with the rise in caseloads and a dearth of innovation, have affected earnings and growth for the company, despite having $42 billion of cash on hand.
“I think that has been part of what has weighed on J&J’s shares the past few years,” Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Jason McGorman said. On top of that, portfolio manager Jeff Jonas also said the verdicts have also caused some reputational damage.
Bloomberg Businessweek noted that the biggest danger in the continued loss of lawsuits isn’t necessarily the financial hit but the fact that it could encourage others to file lawsuits.
Plaintiffs losing cases will sometimes result in dropping of cases or the discouragement of new filings. However, seeing others win could lead to an uptick in new filings, which ultimately raises Johnson & Johnson’s cost of fighting cases and settling.
J&J Faces Lawsuits for Many Products, Including Vaginal Mesh
Johnson & Johnson is facing litigation from plaintiffs who claim that many of the company’s products have caused injuries and death.
It faces about 55,000 claims from people who allege that its vaginal mesh implant has caused pain and other side effects. In December, the company lost an appeal to throw out an $11.1 million award to a woman claiming injuries caused by transvaginal mesh. That is just one of several cases that have been upheld on appeal.
On top of that, Johnson & Johnson still faces lawsuits related to its Pinnacle hip implants. Last year, juries awarded $1 billion and $500 million in two trials related to the implants. Those amounts were reduced by a judge after the trial, but the company is still trying to appeal the losses.