• Experienced | Successful | Since 1971

Have You or a Loved One Been Harmed by the Blood-Thinner Xarelto?

Have You or a Loved One Been Harmed by the Blood-Thinner Xarelto?

Have You or a Loved One Been Harmed by the Blood-Thinner Xarelto? 150 150 CMZ Law Lufkin/Houston

We trust our doctors with our very lives. They see us on some of the worst days that we will ever experience and in the worst possible conditions. We believe that they will take the best possible care of us using all the tools and technologies of modern medicine that are available to them.

So when our trusted physician writes us a prescription for a new drug on the market, we think that it will be fine to start taking it. We put our faith in the pharmaceutical wonders being touted by the drug makers. In the case of a drug called Xarelto, an anticoagulant with the generic name rivaroxaban, it can be a very bad decision.

Problems associated with Xarelto

Xarelto is manufactured by Janssen Pharmaceutical and co-marketed by Bayer Healthcare. It is a type of blood thinner often prescribed in patients diagnosed with, or at an elevated risk of developing, deep vein thrombosis. The condition is very serious and is a common complication of surgery. Blood clots deep in the large pelvic and leg veins break away and travel to the lungs, causing often-fatal pulmonary embolisms. The elderly and anyone who is bedridden for a long period are at a greater risk of developing DVT and PE’s.

Xeralto first gained approval from the federal Food and Drug Administration for use in patients who had hip and knee replacement operations. Later, approval was granted for it to be prescribed for those with heart rhythm irregularities like atrial fibrillation.

Shortly after doctors began prescribing Xarelto to their patients, however, a significant number of them began hemorrhaging uncontrollably, and many died. Their cause of death was exsanguination, which means that they bled to death. The problem was exacerbated by the medication having no antidote. According to one lawsuit filed against the pharmaceutical company that makes Xarelto, as many as 65 patients bled to death while on the medication. The FDA had over 1,000 reports of adverse effects from Xarelto on file with their agency by the early summer of 2012.

This case is not without legal precedent, as another drug maker of a similar medication, Pradaxa, settled a class action case with a $650 million settlement for the nearly 9,000 lawsuits filed after the deaths of more than 500 patients from side effects of treatment with Pradaxa.

Risk benefit ratio — what is safe?

All blood thinners carry a risk of excessive bleeding. Patients who routinely are exposed to potential trauma to their bodies, e.g., athletes, would not be good candidates for extended anticoagulant therapy. Before prescribing blood thinners, doctors weigh their risk against the potential benefits of preventing a more serious, and likely fatal, medical event in their patients. 

Some of the adverse effects of Xarelto include:

  • Elevated risk of infection from artificial hip and knee replacement surgeries
  • Strokes
  • Adrenal bleeds
  • Gastrointestinal hemorrhages
  • Dyspnea (shortness of breath)
  • Retinal and intracranial hemorrhages
  • Peripheral edema of the legs
  • Lowered hemoglobin counts
  • Epidural hematomas
  • Death

Who dropped the ball?

Doctors rely on pharmaceutical companies to conduct rigorous tests on all of their new medications before releasing them for use by consumers. All drugs must also pass the approval of the FDA before they can be prescribed to patients by physicians. In the plethora of separate and combined cases of personal injury and wrongful death cases filed against the manufacturers and marketers of Xarelto, plaintiffs allege that the pharmaceutical companies failed to adequately test the medicine and covered up the fact that no antidote exists. Court filings also allege that the manufacturers exaggerated the efficacy of Xarelto to boost sales.

Before there was Pradaxa and Xarelto, doctors routinely treated their patients at risk of DVT and pulmonary embolisms with Coumadin. For more than 50 years, it has been a reliable treatment for those conditions. While some risks exist with Coumadin therapy, patients who exercise reasonable care can expect to successfully take it for treatment. The downside of Coumadin is that to ensure patients’ safety, they had to undergo regular monitoring of their blood-plasma levels to make sure their dosage was calibrated correctly. With these newer medications, the monitoring became unnecessary.

Overdosing on Coumadin was dangerous, of course. But it was rarely fatal simply because overdosing patients could be treated with high doses of Vitamin K and receive transfusions of plasma that would halt the bleeding rapidly. Without a known antidote for Xarelto, for patients who took too much or got the wrong dosage, the bleeding couldn’t be stopped.

There was, of course, a major benefit for marketing this drug to hospitals and doctors. Patients (or their insurance companies) could be billed as much as $300 a month for Xeralto, when the average cost of warfarin, the generic version of Coumadin, only costs about 50 cents per day for patients. The financial incentive was powerful.

Profit or peril?

An aggressive marketing campaign by the drug companies resulted in Xarelto sales of over $2 billion in 2013. Data from Bloomberg showed sales of $414 million by the third quarter of 2014. Meanwhile, all across America, patients continued to die and experience life-threatening hemorrhages after taking Xarelto. A patient who suffered a bump or bruise while taking Coumadin might need a shot of Vitamin K. The same circumstances for patients on Xarelto could cause them to bleed out.

Corporations are profit-driven and focus on satisfying shareholders with burgeoning sales. However, they owe the public a duty of care not to release medications that are excessively dangerous and jeopardize the life and health of the patients receiving treatment. When patients are needlessly harmed by bad drugs that should never have made it to market, patients are not without recourse in the matter. They, or the survivors of those who died as a result of a drug’s side effects, can challenge these corporate giants in a civil court of law.

Holding these corporations financially responsible for their egregious disregard for human lives is one way to bring closure to the nightmare of an adverse Xarelto medical emergency or the devastating loss of a loved one.

Putting it all together

As one can imagine, the attorneys for the drug companies are vociferously defending their product and denying the allegations contained in the lawsuits. Fortunately, dedicated lawyers are seeking justice for those who have been harmed by the drug. We at Chandler, Mathis & Zivley are not afraid to take on drug manufacturers and their phalanx of corporate counselors to see that our clients get the justice they deserve.

If you or a loved one experienced a worsened medical condition after being prescribed Xarelto, we can help. Contact us today for a no obligation, confidential consultation.