More than 100 lawsuits filed over the link between Mirena and a severe brain condition have been consolidated in the US District Court of New York.
By Laurence Banville
After two years of continual growth, a litigation involving the hormonal intrauterine device Mirena has finally won the opportunity for consolidation. On April 6, 2017, the Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation announced that lawsuits filed over the IUD's link to a rare brain disorder will be transferred to the US District Court of Southern New York.
Women Say Hormone Causes Brain DisorderThe lawsuits claim that a hormone released by the Mirena implant, known clinically as levonergestrel, can increase the risk for intracranial hypertension, a medical condition involving increased pressure in the brain. Left without proper treatment, patients with intracranial hypertension can develop permanent vision loss, along with severe headaches, the National Eye Institute reports. The condition is also referred to as "pseudotumor cerebri," because the disorder's symptoms resemble those caused by a brain tumor.
In Manhattan, around 150 currently-pending Mirena lawsuits will be coordinated as a Multi-District Litigation, allowing plaintiffs to move through pre-trial proceedings together. Forthcoming complaints will also likely be sent to the New York federal court in the coming months.
Judge Paul Engelmayer, an experienced MDL judge, has been selected to preside over the consolidated litigation, In re: Mirena IUS Levonergestrel-Related Products Liability Litigation (No. II). IUS is an acronym for intrauterine system. The more common term, "intrauterine device," refers technically to implants manufactured from plastic and copper that do not employ synthetic hormones. Mirena, on the other hand, is made solely of plastic and relies on the hormone levonergestrel to prevent pregnancy.
Litigation's Rapid Growth Warrants CoordinationAs the Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation notes, a small group of plaintiffs requested consolidation nearly three years ago, when only about 15 lawsuits had been brought in relation to Mirena's alleged association with intracranial hypertension. This early petition was denied, with the federal judges noting that informal coordination was preferable to formal centralization whenever possible.
This time around, Mirena's manufacturer, multinational healthcare giant Bayer, came out against the renewed arguments for consolidation, arguing that previous attempts at coordinating the litigation informally had proved successful. However, the legal situation, according to the Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation, has changed substantially over the last three years. In one sense, the litigation has simply grown at a rapid clip, from 15 lawsuits in 2014 to around 150 claims today. Moreover, a significant number of different plaintiffs' law firms, at least 20, have become involved.
These numbers can't be ignored, the JPML argues. "Effective coordination on an informal basis," the judges write, has been made "impracticable." The Panel did, though, make at least one concession to Bayer's position, selecting the US District Court of New York as the most appropriate venue for consolidation. Only Bayer supported this jurisdiction. Plaintiffs, on the other hand, had lobbied for federal courts in Missouri, New Jersey, Pennsylvania or Mississippi.