Aug 17 (Reuters) - The plaintiff in the first lawsuit over
the heartburn drug Zantac scheduled to go to trial has agreed to
drop his case, according to his attorney and drugmakers named as
Tuesday's news came days after shares of GlaxoSmithKline Plc
, Sanofi SA, Pfizer Inc and Haleon Plc
were hit by mounting investor concern about thousands of
lawsuits claiming the drug, which U.S. regulators pulled from
the market in 2020, causes cancer.
The first trial in one of those lawsuits had been scheduled
to begin on Monday in Illinois state court. The plaintiff,
Joseph Bayer, alleged he developed esophageal cancer from taking
Alexandra Walsh, an attorney for Bayer, said her client
could not proceed for "personal health reasons" but had the
right to refile his case within a year.
Zantac, originally marketed by a forerunner of GSK, has been
sold by several companies at different times, including Pfizer,
Boehringer Ingelheim and Sanofi as well as a plethora of generic
Haleon, spun out as an independent company last month,
comprises consumer health assets once owned by GSK and Pfizer.
GSK and Boehringer Ingelheim said they had not paid anything
in exchange for the voluntary dismissal of the Bayer case.
This result reflects what Pfizer has always stated: this
litigation is without merit, a company spokesperson said.
Haleon and Sanofi were not named as defendants in the case.
Separately on Tuesday, Bloomberg reported a handful of
generic companies including Teva, Perrigo,
Sun Pharmaceutical Industries and Dr. Reddys
Laboratories agreed to settle with Bayer for a total of more
than $500,000 before the case was set to go to trial, citing
people familiar with the deal.
A Perrigo spokesperson told Reuters the company had been
dismissed from the Bayer case, per public records. "We are not
commenting on the article, which is riddled with inaccuracies,"
the person said.
Teva Pharmaceuticals said it had been dismissed from a vast
majority of claims in the multi-district litigation, but settled
in a case that was not part of the litigation at a "nominal
value" far less than what it would have cost in trial.
Sun Pharma and Dr Reddy's did not immediately respond to
requests for comment.
Concerns around Zantac - known chemically as ranitidine -
containing potential cancer-causing impurities started to emerge
in 2018, well after generic versions of the medicine had been
More than 2,000 lawsuits are consolidated in federal court
in West Palm Beach, Florida, where a hearing on what expert
evidence will be allowed in future trials is scheduled for Sept.
The first federal court trials are expected some time next
year, though a highly favorable ruling for the companies on
evidence could effectively end the litigation before then.
There is considerable uncertainty surrounding the potential
total financial impact of the Zantac litigation, Morgan Stanley
analysts wrote in a note on Monday.
"There is also a scenario of zero liability if the
defendants win the early cases," they wrote.
At the heart of the claims is an impurity, called
N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), which is considered a probable
U.S. regulators in 2020 determined the presence of the
impurity in some ranitidine products increases over time and
when stored at higher than room temperatures - and could
therefore result in exposure to unacceptable levels of NDMA.
Meanwhile, Zantac makers strongly contest the once widely
used drug's causal link to cancer, suggesting that NDMA levels
in the medicine are close to what was found in common foods like
grilled and smoked meats.
(Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York, Natalie Grover in
London and Bhanvi Satija in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by
Leroy Leo and Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Marguerita
Choy, Edmund Blair and Mark Potter)