Elmiron – a medication used to treat interstitial cystitis, a type of bladder disorder – is currently under fire along with its manufacturer, Janssen Pharmaceuticals.

Multidistrict litigation or MDL has finally begun, which includes 196 cases alleging serious product liability claims regarding Elmiron. Most of the cases (171 in total) were filed in New Jersey through federal consolidated litigation. Twenty-five more were filed in Pennsylvania and New Jersey courts.

Now that the MDL for this case has begun in earnest, it’s up to legal teams on both sides of the affair to determine how much – if any – negligence Janssen Pharmaceuticals is responsible for in relation to reports of blindness by patients who took Elmiron.

The Cause of Elmiron Lawsuits

The current batch of Elmiron lawsuits was caused due to a progressive increase in vision problems, which were first logged by the FDA Adverse Event Reporting System between 1997 and 2019. At least 22 patients contracted maculopathy.

Pigmentary maculopathy is characterized by eye injuries to the macula, or the central part of the retina. These can cause temporary or permanent vision loss and even complete blindness.

Prior to 2020, Elmiron did not list the possibility for maculopathy or other types of vision loss as a potential risk factor on its warning label. As a result, doctors were not aware of this potential issue and prescribed it to many of their patients. Unfortunately, interstitial cystitis or IC affects millions of Americans every year, and Elmiron is the only drug currently available that is designed to treat it.

Once a number of studies were completed and showed that there was a tangible connection between Elmiron and vision loss in those who took the medication, an MDL was initiated. This combined hundreds of different Elmiron-related cases into a concentrated legal push for compensation.

Is an MDL the Same as a Class Action Lawsuit?

No. A class action lawsuit is a single lawsuit filed by multiple individuals. Plaintiffs all have to have suffered the same injury or grievance against the defendant or defendants. In contrast, a multidistrict litigation or MDL is a collection of multiple lawsuits. They are combined or consolidated into a single case in a federal court.

The Elmiron lawsuits were consolidated into an MDL for several reasons. For instance, many mass tort attorneys believe that an MDL case has a better chance of reaching a successful resolution.

Furthermore, an MDL allows plaintiffs to be more flexible. Different claimants in an MDL can have different injuries or causes for suing Janssen Pharmaceuticals. A class-action lawsuit requires each claimant to have the same injuries.

Pigmentary Maculopathy Explained

Pigmentary maculopathy is characterized by symptoms, including:

It may be that Elmiron’s core components or ingredients are toxic to certain eye tissues. These toxins may lead to complications and maculopathy.

What is the Evidence of Elmiron Causing Blindness?

Several studies have been completed so far showing that Elmiron causes a risk of blindness in certain individuals. For example, a January 2020 study by Drs. Vora, Patel, and Melles found that long-term Elmiron use has a high potential to develop toxic maculopathy. This study involved 117 patients.

Even earlier, a 2018 article by the American Academy of Ophthalmology noted that six eye cancer patients between the years of 2015 and 2017 experienced a connection between pigmentary maculopathy and Elmiron. They had taken the drug for bladder control problems.

An even newer study, published in Clinical Ophthalmology in 2021, included 131 patients taking Elmiron. Around 12.5% of these patients showed signs that indicated developing or current maculopathy.

The Future of Elmiron Lawsuits

At the moment, the District of New Jersey MDL court has 196 distinct cases alleging product liability claims against Janssen. For now, parties within the MDL court are taking time to plan their next moves.

Mass tort injury lawyers are currently working with claimants to develop strategies they believe will be successful when the case finally goes to trial. The trial could begin before the end of 2021 or some time over the next few years.

Regardless, those affected by Elmiron directly can take comfort knowing that the push for answers is happening at last.