Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Drugs & Biotech
by
Plaintiffs filed an antitrust class action against Actelion, alleging that Actelion extended its patent monopoly for its branded drug Tracleer — a drug to treat pulmonary artery hypertension — beyond the patent's expiration date. Plaintiffs claimed that Actelion did so "through illegitimate means" with the intent of precluding competition from generic drug manufacturers and charging supracompetitive prices for Tracleer, in violation of federal and state antitrust laws. Plaintiffs further claimed that, as a result of Actelion's illegal monopolization, they were injured by having to pay supracompetitive prices for Tracleer for some three years after Actelion's patent for Tracleer expired.The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's limitations ruling and concluded that plaintiffs' antitrust claims did not accrue until they were injured by paying supracompetitive prices for Tracleer after the patent expired in November 2015. Therefore, plaintiffs action commenced in November 2018 was timely. The court also concluded that, even if the February 2014 date, when Actelion entered into agreements settling the generic manufacturers' antitrust claims, marked the last anticompetitive act, damages could not then have been recovered by plaintiffs because their claims would not have been ripe for judicial resolution in view of the speculative nature of future conduct that might have thereafter occurred. Therefore, limitations would not begin to run until the claims became ripe. In any event, the court explained that because plaintiffs alleged that Actelion continued with anticompetitive acts after November 2015 in selling Tracleer at supracompetitive prices, new limitations periods began to run from each sale that caused plaintiffs damages. The court largely agreed with the district court's standing, but concluded that the allegations asserting violations of the laws in states where plaintiffs did not purchase Tracleer may yet be considered when determining whether plaintiffs can, based on a Rule 23 analysis, represent class members who purchased Tracleer in those States, and if they can, then whether plaintiffs can include those claims. View "Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. Actelion Pharmaceuticals Ltd." on Justia Law

by
The Court of Appeals answered questions certified to it by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit regarding whether New York recognizes so-called American Pipe tolling of the statute of limitations for absent class members of a putative class action filed in another jurisdiction.In 2012, Plaintiffs filed individual lawsuits alleging injuries based upon the manufacturing of a nematicide by Occidental Chemical Corporation. The cases were consolidated, and the action was transferred to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. Occidental moved for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that Plaintiffs' claims were time-barred under New York law. Plaintiffs argued in response that a putative class action originally filed in Texas state court in 1993 had tolled the applicable three-year statute of limitations. The New York District Court Judge denied the motion and certified an interlocutory appeal to the Second Circuit, which, in turn, certified questions to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals answered (1) New York recognizes American Pipe & Construction Co. v. Utah, 414 US 538 (1974), tolling for absent class members of putative class actions filed in other state and federal courts; and (2) a non-merits dismissal of class certification, as occurred here in 1995, extinguishes tolling. View "Chavez v. Occidental Chemical Corp" on Justia Law

by
Reckitt developed Suboxone tablets, a prescription drug used to treat opioid addiction. Toward the end of its seven-year period of exclusivity in which other manufacturers could not introduce generic versions, Reckitt developed an under-the-tongue film version of Suboxone, which would enjoy its own exclusivity period. Generic versions of Suboxone tablets would not be rated as equivalent to the name-brand Suboxone film, so state substitution laws would not require pharmacists to substitute generic Suboxone tablets if a patient were prescribed Suboxone film.Purchasers filed suit, alleging that Reckitt’s transition to Suboxone film was coupled with efforts to eliminate the demand for Suboxone tablets and to coerce prescribers to prefer film in order to maintain monopoly power, in violation of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 2. The Purchasers submitted an expert report indicating that, due to Reckitt’s allegedly-anticompetitive conduct, the proposed class paid more for brand Suboxone products. The district court certified a class of “[a]ll persons or entities . . . who purchased branded Suboxone tablets directly from Reckitt” during a specified period. The Third Circuit affirmed. Common evidence exists to prove the Purchasers’ antitrust theory and the resulting injury. Although allocating the damages among class members may be necessary after judgment, such individual questions do not ordinarily preclude the use of the class action device; the court correctly found that common issues predominate. View "In re: Suboxone Antitrust Litigation" on Justia Law

by
GSK’s patent to an anti-epilepsy drug, Lamictal, was to expire in 2009. Teva sought to market a generic version of Lamictal, lamotrigine, before GSK’s patent expired. Teva submitted an Abbreviated New Drug Application. GSK sued for infringement. After Teva received a favorable ruling with respect to one claim in 2005, the parties settled. Teva would begin selling lamotrigine six months before it could have had GSK won but later than if it had succeeded in litigation. GSK promised not to launch an authorized generic (AG) version of Lamictal. Had the parties not settled and had Teva succeeded in litigation, it would have been entitled to a 180-day exclusivity period as the generic first filer but GSK could have launched an AG.Companies that directly purchased Lamictal or lamotrigine (Direct Purchasers) sued, claiming the settlement violated the antitrust laws because GSK “paid” Teva to stay out of the market by promising not to launch an AG, resulting in Direct Purchasers paying more than they would have otherwise.The district court certified a class of all companies that purchased Lamictal from GSK or lamotrigine from Teva. The Third Circuit vacated. The district court certified the class without undertaking the required “rigorous” analysis, failing to resolve key factual disputes, assess competing evidence, and weigh conflicting expert testimony, all of which bear heavily on the predominance requirement, and confused injury with damages. View "In re: Lamictal Direct Purchaser Antitrust Litigation" on Justia Law

by
The First Circuit reversed the district court’s certification of a class of all purchasers of Asacol, including purchasers who had not suffered any injury attributable to Defendants’ allegedly anticompetitive behavior, holding that the district court’s approach to certifying a class was at odds with both Supreme Court precedent and the law of this circuit.Drug manufacturer Warner Chilcott Limited’s coordinated withdrawal and entry of two drugs, Asacol and the similar drug called Delzicol, precluded generic manufacturers from introducing a generic version of Asacol, which would have provided a lower-cost alternative to Warner’s drugs, Delzicol and Asacol HD. Plaintiffs filed a class action alleging violations of the consumer protection and antitrust laws of twenty-five states and the District of Columbia. The district court certified a class of all Asacol purchasers who subsequently purchased Delzicol or Asacol HD in one of those twenty-six jurisdictions, finding that while ten percent of the class had not suffered any injury, those uninjured class members could be removed in a proceeding conducted by a claims administrator. The First Circuit reversed, holding that where injury-in-fact is a required element of an antitrust action, a class cannot be certified based on an expectation that the defendant will have no opportunity to press at trial genuine challenges to allegations of injury-in-fact. View "Teamsters Union 25 Health Services & Insurance Plan v. Warner Chilcott Limited" on Justia Law

by
This appeal arose from 532 product-liability claims filed against Hoffmann-La Roche Inc. and Roche Laboratories Inc. (collectively Roche), corporations with their principal places of business in New Jersey. Roche developed, manufactured, marketed, and labeled Accutane, a prescription medication for the treatment of severe and persistent cases of acne. Plaintiffs alleged Accutane caused them to contract inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and that Roche failed to give adequate label warnings to advise them of the known risks of the medication. At issue for the New Jersey Supreme Court was : (1) what law governed whether Roche’s label warnings were adequate (the law of each of the 45 jurisdictions in which plaintiffs were prescribed and took Accutane or the law of New Jersey where the 532 cases are consolidated); and (2) the adequacy of the label warnings for the period after April 2002. The Court found that because Roche’s warnings received the approval of the FDA, they enjoyed a “rebuttable presumption” of adequacy under New Jersey’s Products Liability Act (PLA). The Court reversed all cases in which the Appellate Division reinstated plaintiffs’ actions against Roche. "New Jersey has the most significant interests, given the consolidation of the 532 cases for MCL purposes. New Jersey’s interest in consistent, fair, and reliable outcomes cannot be achieved by applying a diverse quilt of laws to so many cases that share common issues of fact. Plaintiffs have not overcome the PLA’s presumption of adequacy for medication warnings approved by the FDA. As a matter of law, the warnings provided physicians with adequate information to warn their patients of the risks of IBD." As a result, the 532 failure-to-warn cases brought by plaintiffs against Roche were dismissed. View "Accutane Litigation" on Justia Law

by
The First Circuit held that federal law requires prior FDA approval for a manufacturer of prescription eye drops to change the medication’s bottle so as to alter the amount of medication dispensed into the eye, and therefore, state law claims challenging the manufacturers’ refusal to make this change are preempted.Plaintiff sued in federal court on their own behalf and on behalf of a putative class of prescription eye solution purchasers, asserting that Defendants deliberately designed their dispensers to emit unnecessarily large drops. Plaintiffs alleged that Defendants’ practice was “unfair” under Massachusetts state law and twenty-five other states and allied claims for unjust enrichment and for “money had and received.” The district court dismissed the complaint without ruling on the merits, finding that FDA regulations preempted Plaintiffs’ suit. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) changing a product bottle so as to dispense a different amount of prescription eye solution is a “major change” under 21 C.F.R. 314.70(b); and (2) therefore, Plaintiffs’ state law claims were preempted. View "Gustavsen v. Alcon Laboratories, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Defendants manufacture and distribute FDA-approved prescription eye drop medications for treating conditions such as glaucoma. Bottles are pre-packaged with a fixed volume of medication; labeling does not indicate how many doses or days of treatment a patient can extract from the bottle. The dimensions of the bottle’s dropper tip dictate the size of the drop dispensed. Scientific research indicates that a normal adult’s inferior fornix – the area between the eye and the lower eyelid – has a capacity of approximately 7-10 microliters (µLs) of fluid. If a drop exceeding that capacity is placed into an eye, excess medication is expelled, providing no pharmaceutical benefit to the patient. Expelled medication also may flow into a patient’s tear ducts and move into his bloodstream, increasing the risk of certain harmful side effects. These studies conclude that eye drops should be 5-15 µLs. Defendants’ products emit drops that are considerably larger so that at least half of every drop goes to waste. The Third Circuit reversed dismissal of a putative class action (Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. 1332) under state consumer protection statutes. The consumers’ allegations of injury were sufficient to confer standing. Plaintiffs claim economic interests in the money they spent on medication that was impossible for them to use; their concrete and particularized injury claims fit comfortably in categories of “legally protected interests” readily recognized by federal courts. View "Cottrell v. Alcon Laboratories" on Justia Law

by
The FDA approved Depakote for treating seizures, migraine headaches, and conditions associated with bipolar disorder. Physicians may prescribe it for other "off-label" uses, but a drug’s manufacturer can promote it only as suitable for uses the FDA has found safe and effective. Abbott, which makes Depakote, encouraged intermediaries to promote Depakote’s off-label uses for ADHD, schizophrenia, and dementia, hiding its own involvement. Abbott pleaded guilty to unlawful promotion and paid $1.6 billion to resolve the criminal case and False Claims Act suits, 31 U.S.C. 3729–33. Welfare-benefit plans that paid for Depakote’s off-label uses sought treble damages under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1964, for a class comprising all third-party payors. Following a remand, the court dismissed the suit on the ground that the plaintiffs could not show proximate causation, a RICO requirement. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, reasoning that the Payors are not the most directly, injured parties. Patients suffer if they take Depakote when it is useless and may be harmful and costly. Physicians also may lose, though less directly. Because some off-label uses of Depakote may be beneficial to patients, it is hard to treat all off-label prescriptions as injurious to the Payors; if they did not pay for Depakote they would have paid for some other drug. In addition, some physicians were apt to write off-label prescriptions whether or not Abbott promoted such uses. Calculation of damages would require determining the volume of off-label prescriptions that would have occurred absent Abbott’s unlawful activity. View "Sidney Hillman Health Center of Rochester v. Abbott Laboratories, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Direct purchasers of Wellbutrin XL, a drug for treating depression, sued, alleging that GSK violated the Sherman Antitrust Act by entering into an unlawful conspiracy with Biovail, GSK’s partner in the development of Wellbutrin XL, to delay the launch of generic versions of the drug. Indirect-purchasers asserted similar theories under state law. The purchasers claim that GSK delayed the launch of generic versions by supporting baseless patent infringement suits and a baseless FDA Citizen Petition aimed at generic drug companies and by entering into an unlawful reverse payment settlement agreement with potential competitors. The district court granted GSK summary judgment, finding insufficient evidence that GSK’s patent litigation was a sham or that the settlement delayed the launch of generic Wellbutrin XL. The court granted GSK’s Daubert motion to exclude the testimony of the purchasers’ economic expert; decertified the indirect-purchaser class for lack of ascertainability; dismissed the indirect-purchaser claims brought under the laws of states that were not the home of a named class representative; and denied Aetna’s motion to intervene. The Third Circuit affirmed. After considering the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision, FTC v. Actavis, the court concluded that the purchasers failed to establish a genuine dispute of fact either as to whether GSK engaged in sham litigation or whether GSK’s actions delayed the launch of generic Wellbutrin XL. View "In re: Wellbutrin XL Antitrust Litigation" on Justia Law