Johnson & Johnson and Bayer AG had been on a roll with Xarelto lawsuits. Three previous Xarelto verdicts had gone in their favor as juries in bellwether cases in Louisiana and Mississippi found no issues concerning Xarelto’s safety while also finding that the drug’s manufacturers adequately warned physicians and the public over the possible dangers of taking the popular blood thinner.
A Philadelphia jury was not quite so forgiving. Delivering the first loss to the companies, the jury ordered them to pay plaintiff Lynn Hartman $1.8 million in actual damages and some $26 million punitively.
Xarelto was created as a competitor and replacement for Coumadin; a long-standing drug widely regarded as the the gold standard in anticoagulants, or blood thinners. It was marketed as being easier to use than older blood thinners and also lacked the requirement of blood tests to monitor the patient.
However, significant risks come with those conveniences. The drug has been linked to excessive bleeds in some patients and once that bleeding starts, there is no way to stop it. Putting it another way, Xarelto currently has no antidote.
This has led to over 18,000 lawsuits being filed against Bayer AG and Johnson & Johnson over their roles in jointly developing and marketing the drug; marketing which has proven to be highly successful. It’s a huge money-maker for Bayer – in fact, Xarelto was the drugmaker’s number one seller in 2016 with sales topping $3.2 billion.
But the success of a medication does not negate the impact it can have on families and consumers when the worst case scenario comes to fruition. And, according to FDA data, Xarelto bleeds may be responsible for at least 370 patient deaths. These are patients who bled to death with no way of stopping it while their doctors tried everything they could to keep them alive. In the case of Lynn Hartman, that meant a total of four blood transfusions to try to keep up with the rate she was bleeding out.
While Ms. Hartman might have been fortunate enough to have survived, others in the future will undoubtedly not be. This most recent Xarelto lawsuit verdict is a positive first step toward enhancing the safety of a very widely used, yet incredibly dangerous drug.