Multi-district litigation over Pradaxa, a blood thinning medication, has grown to include 78 cases.

The U.S. Panel on Multi District Litigation earlier this month approved an Illinois plaintiff's request for the MDL and assigned U.S. Chief Judge David Herndon to handle the suits, which claim Pradaxa caused serious and fatal bleeding in users throughout the nation.

When the panel issued its Aug. 8 transfer order, the matter included 21 claims pending in 11 different districts courts. As of Friday, it includes 78 cases from at least 19 jurisdictions, according to the U.S. District Court of Southern Illinois' website.

Although the plaintiffs' suits span from New York to California, it appears that the highest number of claims have been filed in the East
St. Louis federal court, which the panel chose to serve as the central hub to the multi-district litigation based on its geographic location and Herndon's experience with MDLs.

The lawsuits contend that Pradaxa caused serious and fatal bleeding and that its manufacturer, Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, failed to warn users of the drug's risks, including the potential for bleeding, and the lack of a reversal agent to counteract its anticoagulation effects.

Despite being in the early stages of the litigation, Herndon stressed in his first case management order, which was issued Aug. 17, that he would like to move forward with the matter as expeditiously as possible.

In his order, Herndon set an Oct. 3 initial conference in the Pradaxa litigation and wrote that the objective of the upcoming meeting "will center on the philosophy of this court that this litigation must move expeditiously."

"The Court's initial finding that this litigation shall move expeditiously is grounded from the Court's reading of the record as it now stands," Herndon wrote. "It is clear that whether the number of plaintiffs remain static or increase, the allegations that have been made are quite serious."

He added, "The plaintiffs and potential plaintiffs will benefit from an expeditious resolution to the factual allegations made in this case, whether the plaintiffs' allegations are proven or disproven."

Herndon said in his order that the defendant, who "clearly intends to vigorously defend against the allegations made," doctors who make daily prescription decisions and the public as a whole will also benefit from a quick resolution of the matter.

"As a consequence, should this litigation survive all dispositive motions, the goal of this Court is to try the first case in approximately 18 to 24 months from the time the scheduling order is set," Herndon wrote.

In his order, Herndon wrote that attorneys seeking to apply for leadership positions, as well as parties on both sides, must be prepared for him to exercise his "discretion to require that this litigation move rapidly."

Attorneys who can't commit the time to accomplish this goal, Herndon wrote, shouldn't apply for leadership roles, which include plaintiffs' liaison counsel and plaintiffs' lead counsel and/or a plaintiffs' steering committee.

Those interested in serving in these leadership roles must submit their applications on or before Sept. 21.

Herndon also noted that he will appoint a liaison and lead counsel on the defense side, but that because Boehringer is the only principal defendant, counsel for the pharmaceutical company should advise him as to whom it prefers to serve in these positions.

In regards to the Oct. 3 initial conference, Herndon wrote that to minimize costs and facilitate a manageable meeting, parties are not required to attend. He noted that persons who are not named as parties in the litigation, but may be later joined, are welcome to attend.

Attorneys planning to attend the conference should familiarize themselves with the Manual for Complex Litigation and be prepared to offer procedural suggestions on how to "facilitate the just, speedy and inexpensive resolution of this litigation," Herndon wrote.

Topics to be discussed at the conference include issues relating to the timetable for dispositive motions, preservation of discoverable information, potential privileges, limits and timetables for discovery and expert witness designation and deposing, the order states.

For more information on the MDL or to view Herndon's Aug. 17 order in its entirety, go to http://www.ilsd.uscourts.gov and click on the "Multi District Litigation" tab.

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