A US judge has thrown out thousands of lawsuits alleging that the popular heartburn drug Zantac causes cancer, awarding a huge victory to pharmaceutical companies GSK, Pfizer, Sanofi and Boehringer Ingelheim.
U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenberg in West Palm Beach, Florida, said in an order Tuesday that the nearly 2,500 lawsuits filed in federal court by the plaintiffs were based on defective science, and that the only highly successful reliable tests of the drug ever conducted showed an “undemonstrable risk of cancer.”
Analysts said the ruling should remove much of the potential liability related to the Zantac litigation, which investors feared could lead to tens of billions of dollars in personal injury awards if the plaintiffs had shown a link to cancer.
On £30 billion was erased the value of big pharmaceutical companies in early August following the publication of a note by investment bank UBS that signaled a “potential overhang” in Sanofi’s share price due to the Zantac litigation.
Morgan Stanley analysts had estimated that damage could be as high as $45 billion.
US-listed shares of GSK and Sanofi rose nearly 8 percent after the ruling.
David Risinger, an analyst at SVB Securities, said the ruling appeared to be “the best case scenario for the companies”.
“Although we cannot rule out appeals. . . or some state court litigation proceeding, Judge Rosenberg’s comprehensive dismissal of the plaintiffs’ arguments is compelling to the defendants,” he said.
Businesses could still face thousands of similar personal injury cases filed in state courts, which are being litigated separately from federal multi-district litigation in Florida.
Zantac, which is the brand name for the drug ranitidine, has been sold by major pharmaceutical companies such as GSK, Pfizer, Sanofi, and Boehringer Ingelheim for the past 35 years. Several smaller generic companies have also sold versions of the drug.
The four defendants in the litigation denied that Zantac use led to an increased risk of cancer and strongly criticized the credibility of a small independent laboratory which first raised concerns about the link between Zantac and cancer.
Rosenberg said there was no uncontested scientist who concluded that ranitidine causes cancer and said the experts brought forward by the plaintiffs had used unreliable methodologies to reach their conclusions.
“Plaintiffs’ scientists in this litigation consistently used unreliable methodologies with lack of documentation of how the experiments were performed, lack of justification for analytical leaps, lack of statistically significant data, and lack of internal, factual, and evidence-based consistency. science. standards for impartial evaluation of the data,” the judge wrote in the ruling, which runs to more than 300 pages.
GSK said it welcomed the ruling and would respond in more detail as soon as possible.
Brent Wisner, the co-lead liaison attorney for the plaintiffs in the Zantac California state litigation, said he was focused on continuing the litigation in the state courts.
“We have our first trial scheduled for February 13, 2023 in Oakland, California. I feel very confident that science is in our favor. . . Our clients suffer from all types of cancers and deserve justice.”