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Dangerous Drug Lawsuits Can Become Complicated

Aug 28, 2015 - Personal Injury, Tuscaloosa by

Take a commonly-used drug, add some serious side-effects and a seemingly-endless number of lawsuits suddenly appear. This phenomenon is not unreasonable — individuals who suffer injury or illness from a dangerous drug deserve compensation that covers their full range of losses.

When the number of individual complaints rises into the thousands, however, our Tuscaloosa personal injury lawyers warn that the legal process can become very complex.

Valuable Drugs Often Pose Risks
Anyone who has ever seen a prescription drug advertisement in a magazine or on TV knows that side-effect warnings seem to make up a large portion of the message. Advertisements for Chantix, a smoking-cessation drug, are a prime example.

Warnings seem to focus primarily on mood or behavioral risks, ranging from confusion and anxiety to suicidal thoughts. These black box warnings were mandated by the FDA in mid-2009.

Still, most doctors weigh the risks and benefits of any drug to allow patients to make informed decisions. Clearly, an effective smoking cessation drug carries health benefits by helping smokers quit a potentially-deadly habit.

One Court, One Drug Company and Thousands of Lawsuits
Before the FDA mandate, many Chantix users attempted or actually committed suicide, resulting in the filing of more than 2,500 lawsuits against Pfizer between 2009 and 2012. According to Alabama Media Group, all suits were consolidated within one Alabama federal court, which used a number of methods to virtually eliminate the caseload:

Dismissal with prejudice: About 660 cases were permanently dismissed relatively early in the process. Even though they were not heard in court, the complainants in these actions reached a resolution through out-of-court settlement negotiations directly with Pfizer. Over the course of the five-year litigation period, additional groups of cases were settled in this way.
Additional orders to attempt direct settlement: The judge requested attorneys for the unresolved cases to make good faith efforts to attempt settlement directly with counsel for Pfizer.
Mediation: The judge ordered that remaining unresolved cases go through mediation to achieve settlement.

The judge clearly did not make these provisions simply to avoid the extensive court time that would be required for individual trials. After hearing four test cases that represented the majority of complaints, it was apparent that each case would be very complex, requiring, among other things, each plaintiff to provide a detailed history to prove no predisposition toward psychological issues.

Fair Treatment Does Not Typically Require a Trial
The fact is that relatively few injury lawsuits are resolved in court. Many reach settlement before lawsuits are filed, and others are successfully negotiated before or during trial. Out-of-court settlements generally reduce the stress for injury victims and their families while providing quicker compensation to people who have suffered enough. This does not mean they do not receive full and fair settlements — Pfizer paid about $300 million to settle these claims.

Additional Resources:
Court to Hear Lawsuit Against Smoking-Cessation Drug Chantix, Fox News, January 5, 2011
Other Blog topics:
Ameridose Targeted in Bad Drug Probe – Alabama Clinics Notified, Tuscaloosa Pharmaceutical Litigation/Dangerous Drugs blog

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