The much-awaited first Xarelto bellwether trial ended with a temporary victory for the defendants Bayer and Janssen Pharmaceuticals. The federal jury in New Orleans decided in favor of the pharmaceutical companies during the first test trial against the plaintiff Joseph Boudreaux of Louisiana. The lawsuit was selected among over 17,000 bleeding injury litigations filed by victims who claim they suffered from all types of internal hemorrhages after taking the blood thinner known as Xarelto (rivaroxaban).

All the claims have been consolidated in the Multidistrict Litigation MDL Number 2592 overseen by Judge Eldon Fallon. The attorneys claim that Bayer and Janssen downplayed the alleged risk of bleeding associated with the drug, and the manufacturers will now face another three separate trials which are scheduled to be held in the upcoming months. Each one of these cases will be handled individually, so although the first verdict ended in favor of the defendants, the war between them and the thousands of disgruntled victims is all but over. This first verdict found the companies not liable for the damage suffered by the 75-year-old Mr. Boudreaux, who was hospitalized in 2014 for a severe gastrointestinal bleeding after taking the anticoagulant Xarelto to treat his atrial fibrillation.

According to the verdict, Janssen and Bayer have no responsibility since they never mislead the patient and his doctors about the health risks associated with the top selling medication. However, the man’s lawyers keep claiming Xarelto to be unreasonably dangerous and promised to keep pressing forward with their battle on behalf of the many who got injured shortly after being prescribed with the blood thinner. The companies’ spokesmen praised the verdict, claiming the drug is safe and effective and that its prescribing information is clearly explaining the possible consequences of rivaroxaban.

Xarelto is, in fact, part of a larger group of medications known as the Novel Oral Anticoagulants which are often considered as a much more dangerous alternative to the older, and more established Warfarin. All these new medications raised many controversies on their alleged safety, and became the subject of a large number of litigations filed by patients who suffered from a bleeding accident. To settle all the claims against the older one of the group, Pradaxa, Boehringer was eventually forced to pay $650 million in 2014. The newer one, Eliquis, has currently attracted many new lawsuits that have been centralized in a new MDL on October 2016.

Article by Dr. Claudio Butticè, Pharm.D.