A federal court’s deadline to work out a settlement in 1,600 lawsuits over antipsychotic drug Abilify has passed. No settlement has been announced. But both sides continue work on narrowing a long list of lawsuits into a series of test cases that could go to trial.
The FDA approved Abilify to treat schizophrenia in 2002, but its list of approved uses has grown over the years.
They claimed Abilify side effects caused them to compulsively gamble, eat or spend money. Others said they suffered involuntary movement, hypersexual activity and suicidal behavior.
In 2016, a federal panel combined 22 lawsuits over Abilify into a multidistrict litigation (MDL). MDLs let federal courts combine similar cases to move more efficiently through the legal process. As of August 2018, there were 1,665 Abilify lawsuits in the MDL.
The drug’s manufacturers agreed to settle three bellwether lawsuits for undisclosed amounts just before they were scheduled for trial in April 2018. Bellwether trials are test cases in MDLs. They gauge how legal arguments on both sides may play out at trial. Their outcomes can cause people to drop lawsuits or defendants to agree to settlements.
Abilify manufacturers Otsuka Pharmaceutical and Bristol-Myers Squibb settled the three Abilify compulsive gambling lawsuits. Just days later, U.S. Chief District Judge M. C. Rodgers, ordered attorneys to hammer out a plan for reaching a global settlement by Sept. 1.
The deadline passed without an announcement of an agreement from either side. But the court was already pushing ahead with plans for more bellwether trials.
In June 2018, the court ordered new cases selected for future bellwethers. Starting with 100 potential cases, the court narrowed the list to just 40 by August 2018. Attorneys on both sides are in a process of selecting which cases to keep or remove from the list.
The judge ordered that they narrow the list to just 10 cases by December 2018. Some of those cases could go to trial sometime in 2019 if there is no settlement.
Bristol-Myers Squibb and Otsuka face more Abilify lawsuits in Pennsylvania and New Jersey state courts.
New Jersey combined 42 state Abilify lawsuits into a multicounty litigation in May 2018. Multicounty litigations are New Jersey’s state version of federal MDLs.
In August 2018, a judge combined 17 Abilify cases in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.
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