By LORRAINE BAILEY
(CN) – A federal judge refused to certify a nationwide class of children and teens who took the antidepressants Celexa or Lexapro, which are approved only for adults.
Beginning in 2009, Forest Pharmaceuticals faced a rash of class actions that accused it of improperly marketing Celexa and Lexapro to children and adolescents.
In Celexa’s case, the Food and Drug Administration specifically denied approval for pediatric use, after a study found more pediatric patients who took Celexa attempted suicide or reported suicidal thoughts than those taking the placebo.
Forest allegedly still promoted the drug for children, and paid kickbacks to physicians for prescribing the drugs, including cash payments disguised as consulting fees and expensive meals.
The cases were consolidated for multidistrict litigation in Massachusetts, but four cases were voluntarily dismissed in 2010 and a fifth case was dismissed without prejudice at the end of that year. With just two cases remaining, U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton refused to grant class certification last week.
“At oral argument all parties acknowledged that the sales calls were made in plaintiffs’ home states by sales representatives located in those states,” he wrote. “Moreover, the actions in reliance on those false statements, including the purchase of the medications by plaintiffs, were also made in plaintiffs’ home states.”
The plaintiffs had urged the court to apply Missouri law since the first case was filed there, but the court agreed with Forest that the law of each plaintiff’s home state must apply, “rendering a class action infeasible.”
“Although plaintiffs correctly advise that Missouri has an interest in policing the behavior of corporations within its borders, that interest does not outweigh the justified expectations of consumers that the laws of their home states will apply,” Gorton found.
The ruling acknowledges that “individual claim of each class member is likely to be relatively small and limited to reimbursement for prescription costs and/or co-pays.”
Though it may be “prohibitively expensive to litigate individually,” Forest said “a class action applying the law of many (presumably all 50) states would simply be unmanageable.” (Parentheses in original.)