"Bayer was scheduled to have the bellwether trials for Yaz, Yasmin and Ocella earlier this year," Malik says. "Then, they decided in January to try to mediate the lawsuits, which the judge agreed to. So Bayer has been settling the lawsuits in some fashion for the past five months. So far, Bayer AG has shelled out approximately $142 million in settlements for US lawsuits. They've resolved approximately 651 cases as of late April 2012."
That means that Bayer is paying an average of $218,000 per blood clot lawsuit. The benefit to Bayer of settling the lawsuits is that the settlements provide a fixed number that the company will pay out, as opposed to a jury award, which could result in large sums being given to plaintiffs. Knowing the fixed amount of each settlement allows Bayer to budget for the settlements.
"Right now, there are about 11,000 cases filed in the federal multi-district litigation, consolidated in the Southern District of Illinois," Malik says. "One-third of those are blood clot cases and the rest involve gall bladder problems. With an average of $218,000 per case, Bayer could be on the hook for almost $2.75 billion to resolve lawsuits involving the contraceptives. That's not actually a lot of money in the overall picture; it's two years' profits for Yaz."
Lawsuits against Bayer allege that the drugmaker knew that its contraceptives were not as safe as third generation contraceptives but marketed them as being safe. Plaintiffs allege they suffered serious health problems including blood clots, venous thromboembolism and gall bladder problems, which resulted in removal of their gall bladder.
"At this moment, Bayer is not settling gall bladder lawsuits," Malik says. "I would imagine that they will settle them later, rather than not at all. Once the blood clot cases are resolved, then they may settle the gall bladder cases."
This means that women who believe they suffered gall bladder injury after using birth control should still contact an attorney to review their case. Just because Bayer is not settling the gall bladder cases does not mean they will not and it also does not mean that gall bladder lawsuits would not go to trial.
Bolstering claims about blood clots being linked to the contraceptives is the recent announcement by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that warnings about blood clots on the contraceptives were insufficient.
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"Women with blood clot or gall bladder problems should contact a lawyer. The door is not shut, but this litigation is going to settle. Bayer is doing a rolling settlement with individual law firms. If they settle, eventually the litigation will stop and some patients will be left without recourse. We allege that these are dangerous and defective drugs, and Bayer didn't give full disclosure about the risks. The FDA recommends talking to healthcare providers about the risks before deciding which birth control to use."