By Emily Cox
AbbVie, the only company still facing claims of deliberately hiding the dangers of its hormone replacement therapy products, struck a tentative testosterone deal Monday to exit the sprawling multidistrict litigation (MDL).
Illinois District Judge Matthew Kennelly entered an order Monday, staying all cases currently pending against AbbVie and its subsidiaries Abbott Laboratories, Unimed Pharmaceuticals, and Solvay Pharmaceuticals after the companies agreed to confidential terms of a global settlement to resolve hundreds of plaintiffs’ claims over their dangerous products and malicious marketing practices.
Judge Kennelly’s order also requires the companies to provide the court with regular updates on their progress in drafting a final settlement agreement, relieving them of any MDL dates and deadlines to focus “their efforts” on finalizing the testosterone deal.
The tentative testosterone deal effectively ends the litigation in the MDL that the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) centralized in the Northern District of Illinois in 2014. Since July 2017, the court has conducted several bellwether trials and still had nearly 6,000 pending cases as of August.
Lead plaintiffs’ counsel also filed a request Monday for the judge to increase their fee awards from the 10 percent attorneys’ fees and court costs the judge set for the litigation in 2014 to 19.5 percent in fees and costs According to the filing, while counsel projected the scope of their work to an extent at the start of the litigation, they did not expect the work to encompass four and a half years of litigation, six “full blown” bellwether trials, and preparation for an three additional rounds of bellwether trials.
Testosterone Deal MDL
All the MDL lawsuits allege that some of the nation’s most prolific drug companies actively hid harmful and life-threatening health risks associated with their testosterone replacement products, such as AbbVie’s AndroGel.
In the first bellwether trial against AbbVie, the jury cleared the big pharma giant of product liability claims. In fact, the jury did not even award any compensatory damages. However, they did levy a $150 million punitive damages verdict for AbbVie’s destructive advertising practices. AbbVie’s second time before a jury didn’t bode much better for the healthcare behemoth. The jury awarded compensatory damages of $140,000 for the plaintiff’s heart attack. But, then they hit AbbVie with $140 million in punitive damages. Punitive damages are designed to punish companies for immoral behavior. These verdicts speak volumes about the immorality at work behind the “Low-T” movement that these lawsuits claim that the testosterone manufacturers created to vastly expand market share and putting an entire population of men at substantial risk to satiate their collective greed.
Judge Kennelly ordered retrials in both of these instances, ruling that the juries’ punitive damages were inconsistent with their findings. In March, jurors slammed AbbVie with a $3 million verdict following the retrial of the original MDL trial.
Several companies were also facing MDL testosterone claims, including Eli Lilly & Co., Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc., and GlaxoSmithKline LLC. All these companies reached testosterone deals as AbbVie continued to proceed through the litigation. Auxillium was the only other company to face an MDL bellwether trial. The jury sided with the company over claims against its Testim product. However, Auxillium sill reached lawsuit settlements in February to exit the MDL.