January 23, 2007

An Ontario Superior Court judge has certified a class action lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and related companies on behalf of Canadians (excluding Quebec) who ingested the heartburn drug Prepulsid, according to the law firms representing the plaintiffs.

J&J subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceutica withdrew Prepulsid (cisapride) in 2000 after it was linked to reports of heart rhythm abnormalities and death. Prepulsid was marketed as Propulsid in the U.S.

In addition to claiming damages for cardiac injuries, the lawsuit also advances a claim for damages arising from the purchase of what is alleged to have been an ineffective drug. While J&J has settled numerous personal injury cases in the U.S., Canadian litigation has been tied up in motions, appeals and opposition from the company, according to the law firms.

In certifying the proceeding as a class action, Justice Ellen Macdonald held that there were common issues related to the drug's cardiotoxicity and efficacy whose resolution would move the litigation forward for all class members. The judge rejected the defendants' argument that a class action would be unmanageable, according to the law firms.

The certification decision was not a ruling on the merits of the lawsuit, and the allegations raised in the claim have not yet been proven in court.