Endo scores a victory in its first testosterone bellwether case

Endo Pharmaceuticals
Endo is still facing nearly 1,300 lawsuits over its testosterone product Testim.

The ongoing class action lawsuit against several makers of testosterone medications hasn’t been going well for AbbVie—it has lost two cases so far—but the legal saga is playing out quite differently for Endo. On Thursday, a federal jury ruled that Endo’s unit Auxilium, which markets the testosterone replacement gel Testim, bears no liability in a case brought by a Tennessee man who alleges he suffered a heart attack after taking the drug.

Over the summer, a U.S. District Court in Illinois began trying a class action suit brought by 4,100 men against 6 makers of testosterone replacement products. The men alleged that the companies invented the disease “low t” and marketed their drugs to otherwise healthy men, downplaying the risk of heart attack and other side effects. AbbVie faced the first bellwether cases, brought against it over its one-time blockbuster testosterone product AndroGel. The jury ordered AbbVie to pay $140 million in damages to one plaintiff and $150 million to another.

The claims levied against Endo did have some similarities to those brought up in the AbbVie cases. The plaintiff, Steve Holtsclaw, was prescribed Testim to treat symptoms of fatigue. He took the drug for more than 6 months before suffering a heart attack in 2014, he claimed. Endo countered the claims in court papers, suggesting Holtsclaw had other medical conditions that could have put him at risk for cardiovascular events. The jury agreed.

An attorney representing Holtsclaw did not respond to a request for comment.

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Despite the victory, Endo’s Testim problems are far from resolved. It is still facing nearly 1,300 lawsuits pertaining to the drug and others that it markets containing testosterone in state and federal courts, according to its latest quarterly report. Matthew Maletta, the company's chief legal officer, said in a statement that Testim is a safe, quality product and that Endo will continue to defend the lawsuits.

"Patient safety is our number one priority and we sympathize with anyone experiencing medical issues," he said.

The testosterone legal wrangling comes at a tough time for Endo. The struggling company has cut 1,000 jobs since last May, and earlier this year it took a $3.5 billion write-down that it blamed on pricing pressure in the generics market. CEO Paul Campanelli has vowed to focus on organic growth, but lately analysts have been predicting Endo will turn to M&A. Endo’s management team said during the company’s second-quarter earnings call that it would be open to deals.

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Meanwhile, Endo has to contend with an even bigger legal mess, this one related to the ongoing opioid crisis. In September, the company was pulled into a national investigation into opioid drugmakers, when attorneys general in 41 states issued subpoenas to Endo and several other companies seeking information about marketing practices pertaining to the addictive painkillers.

In fact, Endo is facing so many lawsuits over opioids that its description of them in the recent 10Q runs a full two-and-a-half pages. The company said it intends to contest the lawsuits “vigorously.”