The number of lawsuits waged against manufacturers of testosterone replacement therapies by men who claim the products cause blood clots, heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems have jumped from fewer than 2,000 in August to 2,744. Plaintiffs’ attorneys say that number is expected to grow as both sides begin the process of selecting 12 cases to serve as bellwethers, lawsuits designed to help refine arguments with the goal of moving the overall litigation toward resolution.
Claims have been filed against seven manufacturers of testosterone replacement treatments, but AbbVie was chosen as the subject of the first trials. AbbVie manufactures AndroGel, a top-selling topical testosterone gel.
The first six bellwether cases will involve claims of thromboembolic injuries – or injuries caused by blood clots. The second set of six bellwether suits will involve allegations of heart attacks or strokes. The first six bellwether cases are expected to be finalized by March 1.
Testosterone therapy is indicated for men with disease- or injury-related low testosterone levels, known as hypogonadism. It is not approved for men with a natural decrease of testosterone due to aging.
Manufacturers like AbbVie launched massive marketing campaigns targeting men, promoting the drugs as treatments for low libido, weight gain, muscle loss and depressed mood, a condition they dubbed “Low T,” which resulted in skyrocketing prescriptions for the treatments.
The lawsuits stem from recent studies in which testosterone treatments were linked to an increased risk of death, heart attack and stroke. In one study, researchers found that men who used testosterone treatments were 30 percent more likely to have a heart attack, stroke or die after three years of use. A second study found that men had a significant increased risk of heart attack and stroke in the first three months of testosterone treatment. Another study found that men who entered the trial with clear, unobstructed coronary arteries were just as likely to have a heart attack, stroke or die as men who entered the trial with established coronary artery disease.