Decision to consolidate Darvocet lawsuits delayed by MDL panel

No decision will be made on whether to consolidate all Darvocet lawsuits filed in federal courts until at least July, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Legislation has decided, believing further arguments must be heard before a final decision is made on the matter.

The motion to centralize the lawsuits under one judge as part of a multidistrict litigation (MDL) was originally filed in December 2010, less than a month after the Food and Drug Administration banned Darvocet, Darvon, and other propoxyphene-based generics. However, after listening to arguments in a March hearing, the judges on the MDL panel pushed back making the decision until additional arguments could be presented at a hearing scheduled to take place this July. When lawyers made the early request for MDL, only four lawsuits against Xanodyne, Eli Lilly & Co., and other Darvocet manufacturers had been filed in U.S. District Courts.

Darvocet became available to the public for the first time in 1957. Doctors continued to dole out the potentially lethal drugs to millions of American patients in the following decades, despite calls from Consumer Watchdog groups and safety advocates for their ban. Studies show that propoxyphene drugs can have a catastrophic effect on the user’s heart.

Propoxyphene is a potent blocker of cardiac membrane sodium channels, and its use often leads to cardiovascular depression and abnormal heart rhythms due to restricted electrical conductivity – conditions which can lead to cardiac arrest and sudden death. Darvocet is most deadly when patients take even a slight overdose – an easy mistake as the drug is known to cause confusion and forgetfulness, especially in some elderly patients.

Because Darvocet was one of the most prescribed drugs in the U.S. for decades, there is little doubt the number of dead and injured will be staggering if it can ever be quantified. Even if we never the know the true scope of Darvocet’s fatalities, the number of lawsuits seeking damages against Xanodyne, Eli Lilly, and other drug makers could potentially exceed all precedents, including the Vioxx trials.

In December, when lawyers petitioned the MDL panel to consolidate the Darvocet litigation, just four cases had been filed in federal district courts. The litigation has since grown to include at least 18 lawsuits naming more than a dozen drug manufacturers and distributors.