May 11, 2021 — Manufacturer Sanofi destroyed internal emails linked to a 2019 recall of Zantac, according to lawyers for over 70,000 former patients who sued the company in the U.S.
The deleted emails, including those of Michael Bailey, the head of regulatory affairs for Sanofi’s U.S. Consumer Healthcare division, will make it more challenging for plaintiffs to show that Sanofi and other drugmakers allowed a suspected carcinogen to affect Zantac, according to a May 7 court filing.
The mishandling of emails has “resulted in the delay and/or postponement of many key Sanofi depositions,” lawyers for former patients reported. They have requested more time to prepare for their first trials from the judge overseeing their cases, which are set to start next year.
Sanofi initiated an internal probe about the email deletion and is scheduled to report to the same judge in August 2021.
“Although Sanofi has already provided hundreds of thousands of pages of relevant discovery to the plaintiffs, Sanofi has voluntarily disclosed that certain emails requested by plaintiffs were not preserved as intended,” Ashleigh Koss, a U.S. spokeswoman, stated in an email Tuesday. “There was no intentional destruction of data,” she said. “Sanofi is working to obtain as much of the data as possible from alternative sources. This issue has no impact on the strong defenses Sanofi has in this litigation, and the company remains fully confident in the safety of Zantac.”
Though Sanofi, GlaxoSmithKline Plc, and Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH, in addition to 33 generic drug makers, 25 retailers, and four distributors, are accused in the lawsuits of failing to properly warn users about Zantac’s health risks, only Sanofi has been accused in the filings of destroying emails. Former consumers have complained that GlaxoSmithKline Plc and Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH have been slow to give records during the pre-trial stage of the Zantac lawsuits, however.
Over 1,300 suits involving claims by more than 70,000 former Zantac users have been consolidated before U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenberg in Florida, making it one of the largest consolidations in the U.S. Rosenberg is overseeing information exchanges and early trials to test the merits of the claims against manufacturers. She has already thrown out some claims, including those saying Zantac was defectively designed. The Zantac case is In Re Zantac (Ranitidine) Products Liability Litigation, 20-MD-2924, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida (West Palm Beach).
Plaintiffs’ attorneys want Rosenberg to create two class-action cases for former Zantac consumers. The first would be for cancer patients who endured economic losses linked to the medicine. The second would include those who haven’t been diagnosed with cancer and seek compensation for medical monitoring in the future.
Reference: “Sanofi Accused Of Destroying Internal Emails.” Bloomberg.com, Bloomberg, www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-05-11/sanofi-accused-of-destroying-internal-emails-about-zantac-recall