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Time Runs Short for Actemra Lawsuits

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Washington, DCHow is this possible when few, if any, Actemra lawsuits have even been filed yet? The answer lies in the tried-and-true defense pharmaceutical companies, like Roche and its subsidiary Genentech, will reach for first: the statute of limitations. The best thing a potential plaintiff can do is to file a lawsuit as soon as possible. Don’t wait.

Actemra, which was approved by the Federal Drug Administration in 2010, has recently been linked to a possible increased risk of heart attack, heart failure, stroke, interstitial lung disease and pancreatitis. However, the drug still carries no warning label about these life-threatening conditions. Court watchers are expecting hundreds of lawsuits. These may ultimately be consolidated into multidistrict litigation (MDL).

Lawsuits brought in state court are generally subject to state statutes of limitation. A plaintiff must file the lawsuit within a certain period of time after the injury occurred or the plaintiff knew or should have known that it was caused by some action of the defendant. Those periods of time are very short in injury cases. In Missouri, it is five years; in New York, three; in New Jersey, California and many other states, two; in Tennessee and Louisiana, it is one year.

Since the time is so short, it is essential to know when it starts. What about the California patient who began taking Actemra in 2010, suffered a heart attack in 2011, but realized only in 2017 that her rheumatoid arthritis medicine may have been the cause. When did the two years start to run? Has she already lost her shot?

The situation is even further complicated by the fact that the FDA has yet to require Roche-Genentech to update Actemra’s warning label. Does that mean that a reasonable person still has no reason to know that Actemra side-effects may include heart attacks? Or are patients expected to stay abreast of medical studies and personal injury blog postings? It is also worth knowing that the Tennessee plaintiff who has only one year to bring suit will not necessarily pick up an additional four years if the MDL is consolidated in Missouri federal court. MDL status will not solve a time problem.

It is nearly certain that Roche-Genentech will raise a statute of limitations defense. Individual plaintiffs need not try to predict every twist and turn for this aspect of the case. But they do need to take steps to reduce the risk that their claims will be time-barred. For those considering an Actemra lawsuit, the best time to file may be as soon as possible.

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