In re Zantac (Ranitidine) Prods. Liab. Litig.

Decision Date30 June 2021
Docket Number20-MD-2924,MDL NO. 2924
Citation546 F.Supp.3d 1284
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of Florida



This matter is before the Court on the Branded1 Defendants ("Defendants") Rule 12 Partial Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs’ Three Master Complaints as Preempted by Federal Law [DE 3114]. The Court held a hearing on the Motion on June 4, 2021 ("the Hearing"). The Court has carefully considered the Motion, the Response [DE 3325], the Reply [DE 3426], the arguments that the parties made during the Hearing, and the record and is otherwise fully advised in the premises. For the reasons set forth below, the DefendantsMotion to Dismiss is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART insofar as a subset of the Plaintiffs’ claims are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE as more fully described in this Order and the Motion to Dismiss is denied in all other respects.

I. Factual Background2

This case concerns the pharmaceutical product Zantac and its generic forms, which are widely sold as heartburn and gastric treatments. The molecule in question—ranitidine—is the active ingredient in both Zantac and its generic forms.

Zantac has been sold since the early 1980s, first by prescription and later as an over-the-counter ("OTC") medication. In 1983, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ("FDA") approved the sale of prescription Zantac. AMPIC ¶ 240. GSK first developed and patented Zantac. Id. ¶ 239. Zantac was a blockbuster—the first prescription drug in history to reach $1 billion in sales. Id. ¶ 240.

GSK entered into a joint venture with Warner-Lambert in 1993 to develop an OTC form of Zantac. Id. ¶ 233. Beginning in 1995, the FDA approved the sale of various forms of OTC Zantac. Id. ¶¶ 233, 237. The joint venture between GSK and Warner-Lambert ended in 1998, with Warner-Lambert retaining control over the sale of OTC Zantac in the United States and GSK retaining control over the sale of prescription Zantac in the United States. Id. ¶ 243. Pfizer acquired Warner-Lambert in 2000 and took control of the sale of OTC Zantac in the United States. Id. ¶ 245. The right to sell OTC Zantac in the United States later passed to BI and then to Sanofi. Id. ¶¶ 249–50, 253–55. When the patents on prescription and OTC Zantac expired, numerous generic drug manufacturers began to produce generic ranitidine products in prescription and OTC forms. Id. ¶¶ 260–62.

Scientific studies have demonstrated that ranitidine can transform into a cancer-causing molecule called N-nitrosodimethylamine ("NDMA"), which is part of a carcinogenic group of compounds called N-nitrosamines. Id. ¶¶ 348, 359, 365, 367. Studies have shown that these compounds increase the risk of cancer in humans and animals. Id. ¶¶ 398–404. The FDA, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer consider NDMA to be a probable human carcinogen. Id. ¶¶ 275, 279. The FDA has set the acceptable daily intake level for NDMA at 96 nanograms. Id. ¶¶ 302.

Valisure LLC and ValisureRX LLC, a pharmacy and testing laboratory, filed a Citizen Petition on September 9, 2019, calling for the recall of all ranitidine products due to high levels of NDMA in the products. Id. ¶ 322. The FDA issued a statement on September 13 warning that some ranitidine products may contain NDMA. Id. ¶ 323. On November 1, the FDA announced that testing had revealed the presence of NDMA in ranitidine products. Id. ¶ 333. The FDA recommended that drug manufacturers recall ranitidine products with NDMA levels above the acceptable daily intake level. Id. Five months later, on April 1, 2020, the FDA requested the voluntary withdrawal of all ranitidine products from the market. Id. ¶ 338.

II. Procedural Background

After the discovery that ranitidine products may contain NDMA, plaintiffs across the country began initiating lawsuits related to their purchase and/or use of the products. On February 6, 2020, the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation created this multi-district litigation ("MDL") pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407 for all pretrial purposes and ordered federal lawsuits for personal injury and economic damages from the purchase and/or use of ranitidine products to be transferred to the undersigned. DE 1. Since that time, approximately 1,400 plaintiffs have filed lawsuits in, or had their lawsuits transferred to, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. In addition, this Court has created a Census Registry where tens of thousands of claimants who have not filed lawsuits have registered their claims. See DE 547.

Plaintiffs filed their first Master Complaints on June 22, 2020. DE 887, 888, 889. In those Master Complaints, Plaintiffs contended that the ranitidine molecule is unstable, breaks down into NDMA, and caused thousands of consumers of ranitidine products to develop various forms of cancer. DE 887 ¶¶ 1, 6, 19. They alleged that "a single pill of ranitidine can contain quantities of NDMA that are hundreds of times higher" than the FDA's allowable limit. Id. ¶ 4. They pursued federal claims and state claims under the laws of all 50 U.S. states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. See generally DE 889.

The Court has entered numerous Pretrial Orders to assist in the management of this MDL. In Pretrial Order # 30, the Court set a case management schedule that was intended to prepare the MDL for the filing of Daubert motions on general causation and class certification motions in December 2021. DE 875; see generally Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., Inc. , 509 U.S. 579, 113 S.Ct. 2786, 125 L.Ed.2d 469 (1993). In Pretrial Order # 36, the Court set a schedule for the filing and briefing of the first round of motions to dismiss under Rule 12 directed to the Master Complaints. DE 1346. The various defendants filed motions to dismiss.

On January 8, 2021, the Court granted the DefendantsPartial Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs’ Three Complaints as Preempted by Federal Law. See DE 2532. The Court's order of dismissal concluded that, in the absence of a personal injury, the Plaintiffs’ over-the-counter claims for a refund were pre-empted pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 379r. As for the Plaintiffs’ other claims against the Defendants, the Plaintiffs were granted leave to, inter alia , correct shotgun pleading deficiencies. See DE 2515.

Following an amendment to Pretrial Order # 36, Plaintiffs filed the AMPIC on February 8, 2021. DE 2759. After the Court granted a two-week extension of time [DE 2720], Plaintiffs filed the MMC [DE 2832-1] and the ELC [DE 2835] on February 22, 2021. In Pretrial Order # 61, the Court set a schedule for the filing and briefing of the second round of motions to dismiss under Rule 12 directed to the Master Complaints. DE 2968. The Defendants filed the Motion to Dismiss addressed herein pursuant to that schedule.

III. The Master Complaints
A. The Amended Master Personal Injury Complaint

All individuals who filed a Short Form Complaint adopt the AMPIC. AMPIC at 2.3 The Plaintiffs allege that they developed cancers from taking Defendants’ ranitidine products. Id. at 1. The AMPIC "sets forth allegations of fact and law common to the personal-injury claims" within the MDL. Id. at 1-2. Each Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages, punitive damages, restitution, and all other available remedies. Id. at 1-2.

The Defendants "are entities that designed, manufactured, marketed, distributed, labeled, packaged, handled, stored, and/or sold ranitidine." Id. ¶ 21. They are categorized into four groups: (1) Brand Manufacturer Defendants; (2) Generic Manufacturer Defendants; (3) Distributor Defendants; and (4) Retailer Defendants. Within each category, the AMPIC combines distinct corporate entities, including parents, subsidiaries, and affiliates, into single named Defendants.4

The AMPIC contains 17 counts and numerous state-specific sub-counts: Strict Products Liability—Failure to Warn Through Warnings and Precautions (Count I, 46 sub-counts); Negligence—Failure to Warn Through Warnings and Precautions (Count II, 48 sub-counts); Strict Products Liability—Failure to Warn Through Proper Expiration Dates (Count III, 46 sub-counts); Negligence—Failure to Warn Through Proper Expiration Dates (Count IV, 48 sub-counts); Failure to Warn Through the FDA (Count V, 15 sub-counts); Strict Products Liability—Design Defect Due to Warnings and Precautions (Count VI, 46 sub-counts); Strict Products Liability—Design Defect Due to Improper Expiration Dates (Count VII, 46 sub-counts); Negligent Failure to Test (Count VIII, 2 sub-counts); Negligent Product Containers (Count IX, 52 sub-counts); Negligent Storage and Transportation Outside the Labeled Range (Count X, 52 sub-counts); Negligent Storage and Transportation (Count XI, 52 sub-counts); Negligent Misrepresentation (Count XII); Reckless Misrepresentation (Count XIII); Unjust Enrichment (Count XIV, 52 sub-counts); Loss of Consortium (Count XV, 52 sub-counts); Survival Actions (Count XVI, 52 sub-counts); and Wrongful Death (Count XVII, 52 sub-counts). Counts I, II, VI, XII, and XIII are brought against every Brand Manufacturer Defendant. Counts III, IV, V, VII, VIII, and XI are brought against every Brand and Generic Manufacturer Defendant. Count IX is brought against every Brand and Generic Manufacturer Defendant who manufactured and sold ranitidine-containing pills. Count X is brought against every Retailer and Distributer Defendant. Counts XIV, XV, XVI, and XVII are brought against every Defendant.

B. The Consolidated Amended Consumer Economic Loss Class Action Complaint

One hundred and eighty named Plaintiffs bring the ELC on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated. Each Plaintiff asserts that he or she purchased and/or used a ranitidine product...

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