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Florida Judge Appoints Legal Team To Lead Zantac Lawsuits

Updated: Jun 17, 2020

A federal judge in West Palm Beach has been assigned to deal with a legion of lawsuits leveled against a clique of pharmaceutical companies after high levels of a potentially cancer-causing chemical were discovered in one of the world’s most popular heartburn medications.

Since an independent pharmacy made the discovery in September, 141 people have sued the producers of ranitidine, a drug more commonly known as Zantac-75, in federal court.

That’s a lot of lawsuits.

So on Feb. 6, a panel of federal judges assigned the cases to a single U.S. District Judge for pretrial matters.

They picked her because she’s been on the bench for six years and hasn’t had a multidistrict litigation case

That’s important, because it means U.S. District Judge Robin L. Rosenberg in West Palm Beach will set the ground rules as attorneys from across the country try to figure out what, when and how much the drug companies knew about the alleged carcinogen in their product.

“They picked her because she’s been on the bench for six years and hasn’t had a multidistrict litigation case,” explained Robert Jarvis, a law professor at Nova Southeastern University.

Multidistrict litigation is a special procedure that lets judges bundle sprawling, complex lawsuits and assign them to a single judge for pretrial matters.

“It is the single largest multidistrict litigation in the history of the United States,” said Michael Citron, a South Florida plaintiff’s attorney whose firm was the first to file a lawsuit against the producers of ranitidine.

“I suspect before we are done we will be seeing at least 100,000 claimants.” Cintron noted.

It is unclear whether Judge Rosenberg will be dealing with all of those lawsuits as well, should they arise.

The lawsuits came about because of one pharmaceutical startup’s mission to test every batch of drugs it sells.

In September, the independent pharmaceutical startup Valisure informed the FDA that it had “detected extremely high levels” of a “probable human carcinogen in every lot tested, across multiple manufacturers and dosage forms of the drug ranitidine. "

The chemical, called N-nitrosodimethylamine, or NDMA, is a highly toxic carcinogen. Its primary use, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, is “in laboratory research to induce tumors in experimental animals.”

The Food and Drug Administration has set a daily intake limit of NDMA for the general public at 96 nanograms a day.

A nanogram is one billionth of a gram.

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