July 24, 2012 — This month, 76 Yaz lawsuits were filed into the burgeoning Yaz Multi-district Litigation (MDL). Chief U.S. District Judge David Herndon is overseeing the litigation in the East St. Louis federal court. The litigation involves approximately 9,800 Yaz lawsuits.
The Yaz lawsuits are settling at a consistent rate, with the average award hovering around $214,000. Bayer has set aside $300 million to settle the lawsuits. Approximately 1,500 of the cases have already settled. It is possible that more women will file lawsuits into the MDL as more people become aware of the substantial settlement amount.
The last status conference in the MDL was held about a month ago, and Judge Herndon has not set any further hearings.
When a pharmaceutical company fails to warn about a side effect that injures many people, it is very common for lawsuits filed in various jurisdictions to be centralized in a Multidistrict Litigation (MDL). Each person’s lawsuit remains independent, and decisions made in bellwether cases set precedent for deciding the remaining cases. An MDL reduces the risk that lower courts will issue conflicting judgements. It also increases efficiency and convenience, while reducing costs and the length of the litigation.
Bayer, the manufacturer of Yaz, faced multiple warning letters from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) alleging that the company broadened the drug’s indication, minimized serious risks, and overstated the efficacy of Yaz and Yasmin birth control pills. Bayer spent hundreds of millions of dollars advertising the contraceptives, and they quickly became the most popular form of birth control in the U.S.
Unfortunately, the FDA was concerned that Bayer failed to warn about the risk of serious side effects. Later research would link Yaz to as much as a three-fold increased risk of blood clots compared to other contraceptives. Furthermore, Yaz was no more effective at preventing pregnancy than other contraceptives. And although Bayer claimed Yaz could treat all acne, bloating, and PMS, the FDA only approved Yaz to reduce the risk of pregnancy, reducing mild acne, and for Pre-menstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD).
The FDA issued several safety warnings about the risk of Yaz side effects, but not before thousands of women were seriously injured. Yaz could cause blood clots to form deep inside the legs (Deep Vein Thrombosis), which could cause serious venous and circulatory damage. If the blood clot got loose, it could travel to the lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism. Blood clots can also cause heart attack, stroke, and death.