As the first Xarelto bellwether trial began last week in New Orleans, drug manufacturers Johnson & Johnson and Bayer were on the defensive attempting to deny allegations that they didn’t reveal the serious dangers caused by the blood thinner.
While Xarelto has been a blockbuster drug for its manufacturers, thanks in large part to television ads utilizing the paid services of publicity spokesmen, there are more than 18,000 Xarelto lawsuits pending in the courts.
Xarelto (also known as rivaroxaban), was approved by the FDA in 2011 as a part of a new class of blood thinners prescribed to patients. The drug was seen as an alternative to warfarin (also known as Coumadin), which had been in use for over 60 years. This class of drug is prescribed to patients with atrial fibrillation to prevent strokes and to surgical patients to prevent post-operative blood clots in their legs and lungs.
Coumadin was effective, but often proved difficult to monitor dosages because it was directly affected by diet. Specifically vitamin K, found in leafy green vegetables, which if consumed could negate the drugs usefulness. The irony here being that Vitamin K could also be used to reverse Coumadin’s effect in case of emergency.
There is no reversal treatment for Xarelto and patients who take the drug and are unable to properly process it can be at risk of life threatening and uncontrolled bleeding.
Xarelto has been shown to cause serious gastrointestinal bleeding which lawsuits allege Johnson & Johnson and Bayer knew about when the drug went to market. The drug lawsuits contend that the drug companies had a fiduciary duty to warn the public and the medical profession about these serious, life threatening side effects. Instead, the drug companies chose to tout their product as a wonder drug in aggressive and deceptive marketing campaigns.
Lawyers for the drug companies have tried to dismiss the lawsuits arguing that there is no proof of the hidden dangers. Judge Jude Fallon denied their motion, writing, “This Court finds that Plaintiffs do not contend that prescribing physicians never should have prescribed Xarelto. Instead, they argue their claim survives merely by showing the doctor would have acted differently had they been adequately instructed, and that Plaintiffs’ injuries could have then been avoided,” Fallon said in his order denying the motion.
Three more Xarelto bellwether trials will take place in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. In addition, about 1,300 cases are pending in Philadelphia’s Complex Litigation Center (CLC).