The following information is my opinion and is not to be construed legal advice. If you have any questions regarding legal issues, please consult a legal expert.
The litigation for those who are involved in the peripheral neuropathy (PN) lawsuits for the Fluoroquinolone (FQ) Community is proceeding and are now entering the MDL and soon the discovery phase of the legal process. Even though I felt I had a very good case, and at one time I also was involved, I was advised by an attorney that it would be in my best interest, and the best interest of the community, for me to pull out of the PN lawsuits. Let me explain further…
Aggressive Litigation and Infiltration
From my point of view, the PN lawsuits are yet another major win for the pharmaceutical companies. Johnson and Johnson, one of the defendants, are known in the legal world as VERY aggressive litigators. As I write this, some of the individuals involved in the PN suits should be receiving or should have received letters calling for them to preserve evidence. The pharmaceutical companies WILL have the legal right to obtain the passwords of those involved and view every social media post (past and present) that plaintiffs have made on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc…. (that includes public, private, and secret groups, and private messages). It does not stop there, they will have access to your email accounts as well as all email interchanges with friends, doctors, etc… the only thing off limits is client attorney communication.
The amount of people who they thoroughly investigate will depend on the amount of litigants. Let’s say that only 300 plaintiffs pursue a lawsuit, they will scrutinize all 300 plaintiff’s data. If there are a lot of plaintiffs such as a 1000 or more (which doesn’t look like that is the case since the lawyers are being very selective and not really fighting too hard for weaker cases) the drug companies will only scrutinize a smaller amount, in which case they will look at who they deem ripe pickings.
I am not naïve and am under no illusion that electronic interaction and social media is secure, including private groups, but I consulted with another attorney who is very familiar with pharmaceutical litigation and is NOT involved in the PN suits and, in his opinion, the preservation of evidence warnings that everyone are starting to receive are unusually wide in their scope that can go way beyond the norm. He felt that these are serving the interest of the pharmaceutical company in addition to the lawyers. However he said this is a newer tactic the pharma companies are using to get the biggest bang for their buck (low payouts for big data grab).
In addition lawyers on both sides benefit financially from the in-depth investigative work into the lives of the plaintiffs because they can bill for time and services related to such endeavors.
Why I Pulled Out
As to why I pulled out, I am involved in research, with many private communications between myself and academic researchers that discuss research directions, grant information, and survey data. I was told by the attorney that he could almost guarantee that I would be ripe pickings and the defendants and will want all my email communications with every researcher, thereby jeopardizing a multitude of confidences. In addition, they would want all my emails between me and other floxies, and since I run a website, that literally runs into the thousands going back to 2009. All of the researchers that I associate with, and most that associate with the FQ community, have a ‘no litigation’ policy that I am aware of and I will not violate their trust. In addition, I would have to agree to a permanent ‘gag order’ which would more than likely stop me from running my website, engaging in advocacy or research regarding FQ’s,
A Dose of Realism
Even more realistically, from what I am gathering, there is great likely hood that these lawsuits are going to have a dismally low payout (even though they are worth much more) as attorneys will be more than likely settle for a low amount.
They do this because to pursue these cases to trial is very expensive. The litigation can take a long time and the lawyers know they have a good chance of losing. So it is better to pick up a couple of million-dollar fees with limited risk than to try for a big lottery ticket for a jackpot.
The one group that always benefits: the lawyers. Do your own research, while the plaintiffs basically get ‘chicken feed’ for a payout, the lawyers will benefit handsomely.
A better system should substantially compensate the victims of FQ’s, not create windfall profits for lawyers, and target actually restricting FQ usage, not continue to expose future generations of humans to unmitigated use of FQ’s.
I highly doubt that these lawsuits will result in usage restriction on the FQ’s.
It is my opinion that the PN lawsuits will:
- Give pharmaceutical companies access to an immense amount of FQ community related data, legally.
- Allow the pharmaceutical companies to perform an in-depth analysis for FQ community, including identifying leaders, outspoken advocates, research trends, major symptoms complaints, and on and on…
- Jeopardize both the process and financial rewards for future litigation by the FQ community for mitochondrial issues (which I believe will eventually be documented) and have a chance for much higher payouts.
- Cause the violation of confidential trust.
- Possible squelching of voices for those receiving monetary compensation ay the discretion of the pharmaceutical companies (gag order).
I realize for some, the issues I have brought up here are not a problem and that a financial reward, albeit small, is a welcome relief. I understand.
In light of recent terrible proposals made by the FDA, such as the proposal to let the pharmaceutical companies release only their, self-policed, side effect data, that can minimize our complaints of adverse reactions (I wrote about it here), data mining done by the pharmaceutical companies for the PN lawsuits has the potential to be used against the FQ community.
However, I believe that the pharmaceutical companies are actually welcoming these lawsuits and are using those who have been promoting these lawsuits, some within our own community, to their own advantage. It is a win-win situation for them and a losing situation for the FQ Community.
For me it is ‘blood money’ and not worth the betrayal of confidence or damage it will cause.