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Boxes of Zantac on a market shelf
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After the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) ordered the consolidation of all federally filed Zantac lawsuits into the Southern District of Florida, District Judge Robin L. Rosenberg scheduled the first status conference for March 20, 2020.

At that time, the lawyers involved will meet with the judge to discuss matters relating to pretrial discovery proceedings.

Plaintiffs Claim Ranitidine Molecule Itself Breaks Down Into NDMA

So far, more than 140 Zantac lawsuits have been filed throughout the federal court system, and more are expected to join the litigation over the coming months. The plaintiffs claim that Zantac manufacturers failed to warn about the potential dangers associated with the antacid drug and that they concealed knowledge of its potential to cause cancer from the public.

In September 2019, the FDA warned that samples of Zantac and generic ranitidine had tested positive for N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), a probable human carcinogen. Though the FDA has yet to say why the medication may contain this dangerous chemical, online pharmacy Valisure—which first discovered NDMA in Zantac samples tested in June 2019—stated that the ranitidine molecule itself is unstable, and breaks down to form NDMA during the digestion process.

The plaintiffs point to research studies showing similar findings, including a 2016 study from Stanford University. Researchers tested 150 mg in human subjects and found that following ranitidine intake, urinary NDMA levels increased 400-fold from 110 to 47,600 nanograms (ng), far over the FDA’s set safe daily intake of 96 ng per day. The researchers added that actual levels of NDMA were likely much higher because only a small amount of the chemical reaches the urine after metabolization.

Court Gears Up for Zantac MDL

According to a pretrial order, the parties will discuss a proposed discovery plan, amendments of pleadings, consideration of any class action allegations, and mode of trial at the initial status conference.

Judge Rosenberg also ordered the parties to confer in advance of the initial conference, and be prepared to discuss their joint proposal for the content and timing of the initial census in the litigation. The court formed a small initial census team that will determine how best to organize and implement data analytics in the cases.

The parties are also submitting to the court a brief written statement indicating their preliminary understanding of the facts involved in the litigation and the critical factual and legal issues. The deadline for this brief was set for March 6, 2020.

The order discusses many other issues related to the MDL, including the appointment of a Plaintiffs’ and Defendants’ Steering Committee, the appointment of liaison counsel for the parties, filing of discovery requests, preservation of evidence, and more.

The eventual outcome of the court’s efforts will likely be a limited number of early trials, called “bellwether” trials, which will help the parties gauge how juries may respond to the evidence. So far no first trial date has been set.

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