Federal Judge Assigns More Than Two Dozen Attorneys to Leadership Positions in Zantac Cancer MDL

The federal judge overseeing the Zantac multidistrict litigation (MDL) has chosen more than two dozen plaintiffs’ attorneys to serve in leadership positions in the growing litigation over the recalled heartburn drug Zantac and its potential to cause cancer in users. After interviewing 62 attorneys involved in the Zantac MDL, U.S. District Judge Robin L. Rosenberg appointed 25 attorneys from law firms across the country to leadership positions in the MDL, including four co-lead counsels, one liaison counsel, 15 members of a Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee and five lawyers who will serve on a “leadership development committee.”

Lead Counsel in Zantac MDL

In a pretrial motion issued on May 8, Judge Rosenberg announced that Tracy A. Finken of Anapol Weiss, Adam Pulaski of Pulaski Kherkher PLLC, Robert C. Gilbert of Kopelowitz Ostrow Ferguson Weiselberg Gilbert, and Michael L. McGlamry of Pope McGlamry PC would be leading the team representing plaintiffs alleging that drug makers failed to adequately warn consumers about the presence of a potent carcinogen in Zantac and ranitidine drug products. The attorneys appointed to leadership positions will be responsible for performing certain tasks during coordinated pretrial proceedings, such as arguing motions and reviewing discovery documents. However, the plaintiffs in the MDL will have their own attorneys to represent their individual interests in their Zantac cancer claims.

Zantac MDL Leadership Development Committee

The Zantac MDL “leadership development committee” established by Judge Rosenberg is comprised of five attorneys who were not chosen for co-lead counsel but in whom the judge saw the potential to become “leaders within the MDL bar.” The committee is designed to help qualified but inexperienced attorneys gain leadership experience in what will likely end up being a large and complex MDL, according to the judge, who said she believes “that the MDL will equally benefit from their enthusiasm and fresh perspective.” The leadership development committee will be co-chaired by Melanie Muhlstock of Parker Waichman LLP and Carmen Scott of Motley Rice LLC.

Lawsuits Against Zantac Makers for Cancer Diagnoses

Since it was discovered late last year that consumers taking Zantac may be exposed to dangerously high levels of a cancer-causing chemical called N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), a growing number of lawsuits have been filed against the makers of Zantac. More than 200 lawsuits have already been filed in the federal court system and in February, the lawsuits were centralized before Judge Rosenberg in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. All of the Zantac lawsuits pending in courts nationwide involve similar allegations that Zantac’s active ingredient, ranitidine, generates high levels of the known carcinogen NDMA, thereby putting users at risk for bladder, pancreatic, stomach, gastric, colon, intestinal and kidney cancers.

FDA Warning About NDMA in Zantac

Since it was first introduced in the early 1980’s, Zantac has been used by millions of people to treat and prevent heartburn, acid reflux and other stomach and throat problems. An independent pharmacy called Valisure was the first to identify high levels of NDMA in Zantac during routine testing and the pharmacy notified the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of its initial findings in June 2019. In September 2019, the FDA issued a statement warning patients and healthcare providers about presence of NDMA in Zantac and the months that followed saw massive recalls of Zantac and ranitidine drug products. On April 1, the FDA effectively removed all prescription and over-the-counter ranitidine medications from the market due to concerns about the potential risk of cancer from exposure to NDMA.  

Zantac Litigation to Become a Major MDL

Given the widespread use of the heartburn drug before it was removed from the market last year, the Zantac litigation is expected to continue to grow and eventually become a major MDL. As Zantac attorneys across the country continue to review and file claims against the makers of the recalled heartburn medication over bladder cancer and other cancer diagnoses, it is estimated that thousands of Zantac lawsuits will be filed in the coming months and years. The lawsuits accuse drug makers Sanofi, Pfizer, Boehringer Ingelheim and GlaxoSmithKline of failure to warn, false advertising and other claims associated with the alleged discovery of NDMA in Zantac and ranitidine drug products.

The plaintiffs in the Zantac litigation are represented by co-lead counsel Tracy A. Finken of Anapol Weiss, Adam Pulaski of Pulaski Kherkher PLLC, Robert C. Gilbert of Kopelowitz Ostrow Ferguson Weiselberg Gilbert, and Michael L. McGlamry of Pope McGlamry PC. Meanwhile, Sanofi is represented by Anand Agneshwar of Arnold & Porter, Pfizer by Joseph G. Petrosinelli of Williams & Connolly LLP, Boehringer by Paul Schmidt of Covington & Burling LLP and GlaxoSmithKline by Mark Cheffo of Dechert LLP.

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