District Judge Robin L. Rosenberg of the Southern District of Florida had previously set the first status conference for the Zantac MDL (multidistrict litigation) case to be held on March 20, 2020. This was after the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) ordered that all federally filed lawsuits relating to Zantac be consolidated into one MDL. However, because of current uncertainties due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the status conference has been postponed and will be rescheduled. When the conference does take place, attorneys will be meeting with Judge Rosenberg to discuss pretrial discovery proceedings.

Zantac Lawsuits Claim Ranitidine Molecule Becomes Carcinogenic

More people who have experienced adverse effects after taking Zantac are also expected to join pending litigation that currently represents more than 140 cases. Victims claim that the manufacturers of Zantac did not warn consumers that the antacid drug has potential dangers, including the potential to cause cancer.

Through testing, the Food and Drug Administration became aware that samples of generic ranitidine and of Zantac tested positive for the probable carcinogen, N-Nitrosodimethylamine or NDMA. In September 2019, the agency issued an official advisory but has not given an explanation as to why the dangerous chemical is showing up in this medication. However, the online pharmacy that first found NDMA in samples of Zantac being tested in June 2019, believes that instability exists in the ranitidine molecule itself. Valisure, the pharmacy, notes that ranitidine becomes NDMA as it breaks down in the digestion process.

Victims who have filed lawsuits point to a Stanford University study from 2016 in which researchers found the urinary levels of NDMA in their human subjects increased from 110 to 47,600 nanograms (ng) during 24-hour urine excretion. This level far exceeds the FDA’s maximum safe intake of 96ng per day. In an open admission, researchers stated that the actual levels of the carcinogen were probably much higher in the tested individuals since only a fraction of the chemical makes its way to a person’s urine after metabolizing.

Court Preparing for Zantac MDL

When the initial status conference does take place, it will be in accordance with a pretrial order that sets in place certain actions for the conference. These include discussion of a proposed discovery plan, the amendment of any pleadings, consideration of class action allegations, and decision on the mode of trial.

District Judge Robin L. Rosenberg has required both sides to confer before the initial conference occurs, in preparation for discussing their joint proposal for timing and content of the initial census (prescreening) of some of the lawsuits. A small census team was created by the court to decide how best to put together and implement the data analytics from all of the cases that are now combined into one.

The court will likely eventually decide to have a few bellwether trials to see how juries respond to evidence and how they decide the cases. No date for a first trial has been set and the court is currently unable to determine when the threat of the coronavirus will pass. Parties have been encouraged to discuss alternative options for in-person meetings.

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