Bloomberg is reporting today that Bayer has now settled approximately 500 of the more than 10,000 lawsuits pending against the German drug manufacturer. The reports indicate that the cases were confidentially settled for the sum of $110 million, or slightly more than an average of $200,000 per case. Settlement negotiations have been underway since late last year, but, until recently, had gained little traction. A report to the SEC in late February of 2012 indicated that only 70 cases had been successfully settled at that time. These latest settlements reportedly include only a few lawyers who had cases pending in the national litigation, so settlement counsel for Bayer Corporation has hundreds of additional law firms with whom to meet in the coming months in order to comply with the representations made to the courts regarding the defendants’ plans for exploring settlement options.
Even if Bayer is successful in settling more blood clot-related claims, the litigation will remain, as a number of the pending cases involve other injuries, especially gallbladder disease. It has also been reported that the negotiations have been limited to cases involving use of Yaz and Yasmin, so a number of cases involving other drospirenone-containing birth control such as Ocella, Gianvi, Beyaz, Loryna, Safyral, Syeda, and drug-related injuries will remain as well.
The first bellwether trial in the MDL (which has been pending in East St. Louis since 2009) was postponed in January due to the ongoing settlement negotiations. That first MDL trial, as well as others, are slated to be put back on the court’s trial calendar shortly if the cases are not settled. Judge Herndon, who oversees the MDL proceedings, has been working closely with Judge Sandra Moss, who oversees the consolidated Yaz cases in Philadelphia state court. Several mediators are also involved in the process in hopes of encouraging meaningful negotiations on the cases. Yaz, Yasmin, and Ocella cases pending in state court in California have also been stayed temporarily while settlement talks continue.
Currently, there are more than 10,000 individual lawsuits pending across the country in state and federal courts. These cases involve both wrongful death as well as personal injury claims that have been suffered by women and young girls. The injuries that have been linked to birth control preparations that contain the progestin drospirenone include deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary emboli, sudden cardiac death, heart attack, stroke, and gallbladder disease. It is rumored that the confidential settlements reached thus far have been limited to claims involving blood clots in the legs and lungs.
Recently, the FDA required new warnings for Yaz, Yasmin, and Ocella that inform patients that these particular birth control medications have greater safety risks than other drugs with the same level of effectiveness. This change to the warning label comes more than two years after several independent studies were published in medical journals documenting that Yaz, Yasmin, and Ocella are associated with a 200% to 500% increased risk of blood clot-related injuries. Unfortunately, the warning label changes are too little, too late for the 10,000 patients who have already suffered significant harm.