U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin, who held an initial conference in the multidistrict litigation on Wednesday, appointed a group of seven men and five women to spearhead the Tepezza cases.
A dozen lawyers will lead a growing number of lawsuits brought over Tepezza, an infusion drug that treats thyroid eye disease.
More than 40 lawsuits allege that Tepezza, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved in 2020, causes permanent hearing loss or ringing in the ears and that manufacturer Horizon Therapeutics USA Inc. failed to warn patients of these problems.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin, who held an initial conference in the multidistrict litigation, appointed Wednesday a group of seven men and five women to spearhead the Tepezza cases, including three co-lead plaintiffs’ counsel: Timothy Becker of Johnson/Becker in Minneapolis; Ashlie Case Sletvold, of Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane Conway & Wise in Cleveland; and Trent Miracle, co-chair of the complex litigation department at Simmons Hanly Conroy in Alton, Illinois.
“A great team has committed to helping the plaintiffs in this case,” Miracle said in an email.
The team also includes liaison counsel Mary Condon Wells of Chicago’s Wallace Miller and eight members of an executive committee.
“Horizon Therapeutics allegedly knew that this drug was causing hearing issues but failed to inform the FDA or change the warning labels in a timely manner,” said Panagiotis “Pete” Albanis, a partner in the Fort Myers, Florida, office of Morgan & Morgan, one of the lawyers appointed as executive committee members. “I’m eager to work with my colleagues to hold those responsible accountable for the injuries they’ve caused.”
Tepezza was approved under the Orphan Drug Act, which targets rare diseases. Although the drug’s label lists “hearing impairment” among a host of side effects, the lawsuits alleged that doctors failed to screen patients during the eight infusions they had over a 24-week period.
The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation ordered the Tepezza cases to be coordinated in the Northern District of Illinois earlier this month. Horizon had opposed multidistrict litigation, insisting the cases were “substantially different” from one another.
Many of the lead lawyers, such as Becker and Sletvold, were appointed in other multidistrict litigation in the Northern District of Illinois, in particular, lawsuits over Abbott’s preterm infant formula and cases involving hair relaxers.
The team has worked together for months on the Tepezza litigation. In court papers, Becker said his firm, which has filed more than a dozen lawsuits, led the process of forming a group to litigate the cases. “Throughout the past year,” he wrote, “we convened periodic meetings to assess the state of the science, general liability in the litigation, and strategy to advance the litigation.”
Horizon, represented by Frost Brown Todd partners Lori Hammond, in Louisville, Kentucky, and Eric Riegner, in Indianapolis, has insisted in several motions to dismiss that the U.S. Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act preempted the claims that it failed to warn of hearing loss.
Horizon, which is based in Dublin but has U.S. headquarters in Deerfield, Illinois, is in the midst of a $26.5 billion sale to an Amgen subsidiary. In announcing the acquisition, Amgen said Horizon Therapeutics would provide “innovative” medicines that “address the needs of patients suffering from rare diseases.”
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