GSK escapes first state-level Zantac jury trial with settlement

A month before it was set to take the stand in the highly anticipated first Zantac-related trial, GSK scratched the case with a settlement.

The company reached a confidential deal with Californian James Goetz, who claimed that he developed bladder cancer after taking now-discontinued heartburn med Zantac. The case would have served as the opener to thousands of state-level Zantac cases.

The settlement “reflects the company’s desire to avoid distracted related to protracted litigation” in the case, GSK in a statement.

“GSK does not admit any liability in this settlement and will continue to vigorously defend itself based on the facts and the science in all other Zantac cases,” it added.

Goetz also sued Sanofi and Pfizer, both of which reached settlements last December. At the time, GSK said in a statement that it would defend itself in “all claims brought at the state level,” arguing that there is “no consistent or reliable evidence” that the drug causes cancer.

The case was pushed back to July 24 in February, giving judge Evelio Grillo more time to weigh both side’s expert testimonies. In March, the judge moved to allow the expert testimony, which GSK said it “respectfully disagreed” with in a statement, pointing to the 13 epidemiological studies evaluating human data in ranitidine use in which “scientific consensus is that there is no consistent or reliable evidence,” the company alleged.

Last month, GSK saw a win in a key class-action suit in Canada after the British Columbia Supreme Court dismissed the litigation. That decision was made due to “uncontroverted evidence that neither ranitidine nor NDMA are reliably associated with increased cancer risk,” GSK said in its statement at the time.

But the biggest win so far came in December when a U.S. District Judge wiped thousands of federal claims from GSK, Sanofi, Pfizer and Boehringer Ingelheim’s plates, ruling that the science used to back up the plaintiff’s claims utilized “unreliable methodologies” to reach their conclusions.

Zantac, or ranitidine, cases have been looming since 2020, when the FDA asked the drug’s makers to voluntarily recall their products following a 2019 discovery of high levels of a likely carcinogen in the pill and its generics. While GSK claims the evidence of the med causing cancer doesn’t stack up, a February Bloomberg report alleged that the company was warned by its own scientists as well as independent researchers about the potential cancer-causing impurity. A company spokesperson called the article “an incomplete and biased presentation of facts.”

Now, most of the pending Zantac litigation in the U.S. will take place in Delaware with more than 75,000 state cases. Those will likely begin in January, Reuters reports.