Bethany Krajelis Jun. 6, 2013, 2:01pm

A handful of lawsuits have been filed in southern Illinois’ federal court over the prescription birth control drug known as NuvaRing.

Filed between April and this month, the five suits are potential tag-along actions to multi-district litigation that was created in 2008 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.

U.S. Judge Rodney W. Sippel is presiding over In re: NuvaRing Products Liability Litigation, MDL 1964, which included 1,163 pending actions as of May, according to the website of the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JMPL).

All of the suits allege injuries as a result of using NuvaRing, a once-a-month vaginal birth control ring that was marketed for its convenience because it provides month-long protection as opposed to traditional birth control pills that have to be taken daily.

The plaintiffs claim that makers of NuvaRing knew, but failed to disclose that their drug had a higher risk of complications associated with Deep Vein Thrombosis, Pulmonary Embolism and death than traditional birth control pills.

They also contend NuvaRing was not adequately tested.

The five suits brought since April in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois name the following as defendants: Organon USA Inc., N.V. Organon, Schering Corp., Merck & Co., Inc. and Merck Sharp & Dohme.

Organon USA, according to the suits, is a New Jersey based corporation that designed, licensed, manufactured, distributed, sold and marketed NuvaRing.

Based in the Netherlands, N.V. Organon conducted research and contributed to the development of the birth control drug, as well as to its design, testing, manufacturer, marketing and distribution, the suits state.

According to the suits, the New Jersey-based Schering Corp. acquired Organon BioSciences NV in 2007 and Organon Pharmaceuticals USA in 2008, leaving Schering liable for Organon’s liabilities associated with NuvaRing.

The plaintiffs also name Merck & Co., Inc. and Merck Sharp & Dohme as defendants based on Merck & Co.’s 2009 merger with Schering Corp., which they claim makes those companies liable for NuvaRing-related injuries and damages.

The first of the five suits filed in the Southern District for Illinois was brought by Robert Howell, as special administrator for the estate of his late wife, Erin Howell.

Howell, a Williamson County resident, asserts in his suit that his 31-year-old wife suffered a massive pulmonary embolism and died in July 2011 as a proximate and direct result of using NuvaRing.

Howell’s suit makes claims under the Wrongful Death and Survival acts and includes counts for negligence, strict products liability, as well as breach of express and implied warranty, among others.

He seeks damages associated with the loss of his spouse, including damages for grief, sorrow and mental suffering, and damages for economic and non-economic losses.

Howell’s suit was submitted in April by Roger Denton and Kristine Kraft, both attorneys at Schlichter, Bogard & Denton in St. Louis, and the Chicago law firm of Toer Hoerman Law LLC.

Stephen G. Strauss, an attorney with Bryan Cave LLP in St. Louis, represents the defendants in Howell’s suit.

Court records show that Kraft also represents plaintiffs Jennifer Hovis, Tamika Williams and Stephanie Terry, all of whom filed their suits over NuvaRing earlier this month in southern Illinois’ federal court.

James R. Kimmey III with Hartnett Gladney Hetterman LLC in St. Louis brought a similar complaint over the birth control drug in May on behalf of plaintiff Tamara Willis.

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