Southern Illinois district court to handle Yaz lawsuits

The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation in Washington D.C. has chosen the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Illinois in East St. Louis to handle multidistrict litigation for what could be as many as 25,000 Yaz lawsuits. Chief Judge David Herndon will preside over the pre-trial proceedings, which have been filed by plaintiffs in all parts of the country against Bayer, the manufacturer of the popular oral contraceptive.

Yaz incorporates a unique progestin, drospirenone, with ethinyl estradiol, a more common ingredient used in birth control drugs. Many women who have been injured after starting a Yaz regimen allege that the drug poses a multitude of serious risks, which Bayer downplayed in its Yaz marketing campaigns.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration admonished Bayer in October 2008, citing the company for “significant deviations” in its promotion of Yaz. The complaint largely centered on the understatement of the drug’s risks and the overstatement of its benefits, including the treatment of conditions for which the drug was not approved. The misleading marketing campaign is frequently cited in lawsuits brought against Bayer by former Yaz users.

Some of the most serious side effects associated with Yaz include stroke, heart arrhythmia cardiac arrest, deep vein thrombosis and other forms of blood clotting, pulmonary embolism, gallbladder disease, kidney damage or failure, and sudden death.

Judge Herndon told Southwestern Illinois’ Belleville News-Democrat that he may also conduct bellwether trials, a cluster of cases selected because they reflect the charges and allegations of the other lawsuits. The outcome of bellwether trials helps establish guidelines for other cases.

When a significant number of similar lawsuits, such as those being brought against Bayer over Yaz injuries, accumulate in federal courts, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation normally moves to consolidate them in one U.S. District Court to avoid redundant efforts and inconsistent pre-trial rulings. The dynamics of these representative trials will then be considered in the evaluation of other cases.