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Are Actemra Claimants Headed for Multidistrict Litigation?

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Washington, DCSome law firms and at least one organization that finances mass tort litigation seem to think so. But what does it mean for the little guy when big dogs start to circle around the likelihood that Actrema lawsuits will be consolidated into multidistict litigation (MDL)? Is this a good thing or a bad thing for someone who has had a heart attack after being treated with Actemra? Here’s some background for talking to a lawyer about what happened to you.

The Actemra lawsuits soon to be filed, and there may be hundreds, share some common themes. Genentech (a subsidiary of Roche) failed to disclose known risks that the rheumatoid arthritis drug could also cause heart attacks, heart failure, strokes, a host of other things and death. It’s not the only drug on the market for the condition. Had patients known about the danger, they might have made another choice, and they might not have been hurt. Perhaps the drug manufacturer had an economic incentive not to disclose the risk, and perhaps the FDA should have warned about this and did not. That’s the case in a nutshell

Multidistrict litigation is not the only choice in this situation. Plaintiffs can always sue as individuals and a class action might be certified. These are the differences:

  • An individual suit may carry the greatest potential for individual recovery, but it also costs the most. That blows it out of the box for most people;

  • In a class action, costs are shared, but so is the recovery. Many of us have gotten a random and unexpected notice about the opportunity to opt into a class action because we bought from a particular store or banked at a particular bank years ago. But the reward may be less than the cost of return postage;

  • With an MDL, multiple civil cases that share a common issue are transferred to a single district court. That court then handles all discovery and pretrial proceedings for the lawsuits. The goal of MDL is to conserve resources and foster consistent court rulings across different lawsuits that involve similar legal issues. The awards, however, are individually determined. The costs are socialized. The rewards are pure capitalism.


What really happens after the first few cases go to trial under in MDL (bellwether cases) is that the defendant makes a settlement offer to be divided among all MDL parties. This makes the situation somewhat like the result in a class action. The size of the settlement offer is important relative to the number of MDL litigants.

Will an Actemra MDL be good for you? Perhaps nothing will restore you or your family to the health you once enjoyed, but you should be careful about picking a lawyer. If and when you go to speak to one, you should understand a little about the legal landscape around you. We hope this helps.

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