January 14, 2013 — The first NuvaRing lawsuits will not go to trial until July 8, 2013, two months after they were originally scheduled. Judge Rodney Sippel, who currently presides over the centralized litigation, issued the order in November 2012.
The extra two months will give plaintiffs more time to join the litigation. It also allows Merck & Co. and their subsidiary Organon Pharmaceuticals more time to negotiate a potential settlement agreement with more than 1,000 plaintiffs.
All of the lawsuits allege that Merck and Organon failed to adequately warn that the hormones in NuvaRing are associated with higher risks than the hormones in other, equally-effective contraceptives.
The problems with NuvaRing were identified in two major studies in 2012. The first, published in May by the British Medical Journal, linked NuvaRing to a 90% increased risk of blood clots. The second, published in June by the New England Journal of Medicine, linked NuvaRing to a 2.5-fold increased risk of stroke due to blood clots.
The litigation has grown significantly since these studies were published. The vast majority of lawsuits have been centralized in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, in a federal Multi-District Litigation (MDL), where more than 1,000 lawsuits are pending. Nearly 200 additional lawsuits are pending in state court.
As with most medical device MDLs, pre-trial proceedings are followed by a series of “bellwether trials” before a jury. The jury’s decisions in those trials can help gauge results in future trials, which can help expedite a potential settlement. If the parties cannot agree on a settlement, the cases are remanded back to the state courts where they were filed originally.
NuvaRing is a type of birth control device that consists of a round, flexible ring that slowly releases hormones in a woman’s vagina. One of those hormones is a “third-generation” progestin called etonogestrel, which has been linked to higher rates of blood clots, pulmonary embolism, heart attack, stroke, and death than “second-generation” progestins like levonorgestrel.