Legal Look: COVID-19 Affects Zantac and Zofran MDLs and Raises Concerns About ARB Users

The Legal Look

This week's Legal Look covers coronavirus-related changes to Zantac and Zofran multidistrict litigation (MDL). It also touches on a recent suggestion that certain blood pressure drugs may increase the risk of COVID-19 (coronavirus) infection.

The multidistrict litigation (MDL) process makes it easier for courts to handle many similar lawsuits. Unlike class action lawsuits, MDL cases are grouped to streamline pretrial procedures. MDLs often deal with many plaintiffs harmed by the same product or situation. MDL cases are still tried individually. You can learn more about MDLs on our resource page here.

Zantac MDL Conference Postponed Due to the Novel Coronavirus

Hundreds of people have filed lawsuits against Zantac (ranitidine) manufacturers. The lawsuits claim the drug caused them to develop cancer. Several months ago, many forms of Zantac were recalled due to contamination with a cancer-causing substance.

The United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) consolidated these cases in February 2020. Together, the cases form MDL 2924. Judge Robin L. Rosenberg scheduled the initial MDL conference for March 20, 2020. The court recently made adjustments to its schedule due to COVID-19.

First, the court canceled the initial conference. Second, the court expressed interest in rescheduling the conference when all participants could attend. But social distancing measures may prevent that.

The court cannot predict when the threat of coronavirus will pass. Thus, it requested that all parties begin discussing alternatives to in-person meetings.

Learn more about Zantac lawsuits here >>>

Zofran Bellwether Trial Delayed Indefinitely Due To COVID-19

Parents have filed suits against GlaxoSmithKline over its anti-nausea drug, Zofran. They claim the drug caused birth defects when taken by pregnant women. These lawsuits were consolidated into MDL 2657 in 2015. The first test trial in this MDL, a bellwether trial, was originally scheduled to begin May 4, 2020.

United States District Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV postponed the bellwether trial indefinitely. Given the level of uncertainty caused by COVID-19, he did not specify a new date for the trial. According to Judge Saylor, many criminal cases will take precedence once the courts resume normal operation. Thus, the court will have to wait and see how things develop before setting a new date for the Zofran bellwether.

Learn more about Zofran lawsuits here >>>

Experts Say Drugs Like Valsartan Unlikely to Affect Risk of COVID-19 Infection

Researchers recently expressed concern about patients taking angiotensin II type-I receptor blockers (ARBs). Many patients take ARBs to control high blood pressure. The researchers noted a few reasons they suspect ARBs may make it easier for COVID-19 to infect cells.

Viruses similar to COVID-19 get into cells using a receptor called ACE2. Cells make more ACE2 receptors when they are exposed to ARBs. COVID-19 might have an easier time infecting cells with many ACE2 receptors.

The American Heart Association (AHA) responded to these concerns. According to the AHA, evidence suggests ARBs may reduce lung injury in certain viral lung illnesses. Currently, no data conclusively indicates benefit or harm in COVID-19 patients taking ARBs.

Therefore, the AHA recommends physicians make no changes to ARB treatments unless indicated by accepted clinical standards.

Valsartan, an angiotensin II receptor blocker, has recently made headlines around the world. Test results showed a cancer-causing substance in several forms of the drug. This contamination triggered thousands of valsartan recalls worldwide. Many patients have filed valsartan lawsuits, claiming the contaminated drug caused cancer.

COVID-19 Legal Effects Are Still Evolving

Each day currently brings an even higher number of new COVID-19 cases than the day before. States and cities have enacted wide-ranging measures in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus. As such, multiple lawsuits may continue to be impacted by COVID-19. Only time will tell how long and to what extent COVID-19 will impact the country's legal system.

Authored by Katy Moncivais, Ph.D.Medical Editor
Photo of Katy Moncivais, Ph.D.
Katy Moncivais holds a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin. She’s an experienced Regenerative Medicine Consultant with a demonstrated history of working in the hospital & healthcare industry. Skilled in adult stem cells, medical devices, biomechanics, bacterial and mammalian cell culture, and regenerative medicine, she provides guidance on an array of topics affecting consumers. In her role at, Dr. Moncivais works alongside the writing and research staff to help deliver fact-based news stories to consumers. Her unique professional history alongside her rigorous educational background allows her to contribute to a variety of consumer-focused topics with a fresh perspective. In addition, Dr. Moncivais reviews portions of medically driven content to ensure scientific accuracy.
Editorial Standards Full Bio