Darvon, Darvocet Lawsuits Centralized in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Kentucky

Federal lawsuits stemming from the Darvon and Darvocet recall have been consolidated in a multidistrict litigation (MDL) and transferred to U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky (Covington Division). The Darvon and Darvocet litigation (MDL 226) will be presided over by Judge Danny C. Reeves.

Darvon and Darvocet both contain the active ingredient propoxyphene. Last November, Darvon, Darvocet and other prescription painkillers containing propoxyphene were pulled from the market by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) after a study found propoxyphene could induce a potentially-fatal irregular heartbeat.

As we’ve reported previously, the dangers of Darvon and Darvocet were known long before the painkillers were recalled. According to Public Citizen, which has petitioned the FDA twice since 1978 to ban propoxyphene, the painkiller is not very effective, is toxic at doses not much higher than the recommend dose because a heart-toxic metabolite accumulates in the body, and is somewhat addictive. Propoxyphene bans were announced in the United Kingdom almost six years ago, and in Europe, almost 1½ years ago. According to Public Citizen, the FDA’s delay in recalling the drugs has likely cost thousands of lives.

Following the Darvon and Darvocet recalls in the U.S., a number of lawsuits were filed throughout the country by people who were allegedly injured by these drugs. Late last year, 11 plaintiffs petitioned the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) to consolidate the lawsuits in an MDL in one federal court. Plaintiffs had supported centralization in the Eastern District of New York, the Eastern District of Louisiana, the Western District of Louisiana, the Southern District of Ohio or the Northern District of Georgia.

Defendants in the lawsuits, including Xanodyne Pharmacueticals, the maker of Darvon and Darvocet, opposed consolidation. However, some had suggested the Eastern District of Kentucky as a venue for any consolidated litigation. Xanodyne, the primary defendant in the litigation, is based in Kentucky.

In ruling to consolidate the Darvon and Darvoct litigation, the JPML found that the lawsuits share factual issues including:

• Whether Darvocet, Darvon and other medications containing propoxyphene were defectively designed and marketed.

• Which defendants manufactured, licensed or sold propoxyphene products during various times.

• Whether defendants knew or should have known of the increased risk of cardiovascular injuries with these medications and failed to provide adequate warnings of them.

An MDL allows lawsuits associated with a particular product to be coordinated under one judge for pretrial litigation to avoid duplicative discovery, inconsistent rulings and to conserve the resources of the parties, witnesses and the court. When lawsuits are consolidated as a multidistrict litigation, each retains its own identity. If the multidistrict litigation process does not resolve the cases, they are transferred back to the court where they originated for trial.

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