Novartis obtains dismissal of Zometa case based on lack of proximate causation.



3rd Cir. -- United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

Pharmaceutical Products


On October 5, 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit issued an opinion upholding the district court’s decision granting Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation’s motion for summary judgment based on plaintiffs’ inability to establish proximate cause, an essential element of their failure-to-warn claims.  Bock v. Novartis Pharm. Corp., Case No. 15-3696, slip op. at 1 (3d Cir. Oct. 5, 2016) (the “Opinion”).

Plaintiffs alleged that Novartis failed to warn physicians that the prescription drug Zometa® caused osteonecrosis of the jaw (“ONJ”).  The district court found that plaintiffs could not identify any evidence sufficient to satisfy their proximate causation burden in part because the prescribing physicians at issue “indicated that they would still prescribe the drug today if presented with a patient such as [Mr.] Bock because, in their medical judgment, the benefits of the drug significantly outweigh the risks.”  Bock v. Novartis Pharm. Corp., 137 F. Supp.3d 802, 810 (W.D. Pa. 2015).  The Third Circuit echoed this finding, noting that plaintiffs had not “made the requisite prima facie showing that Mr. Bock would have received a different treatment—either through his own informed decision or through his doctors’ determinations—if the warnings provided by Novartis had been more detailed.”  Opinion at 11.  The Third Circuit also concluded, as did the district court, that “the evidence mustered paints the opposite picture” and that “because proximate causation is an essential element of a failure-to-warn claim, we conclude that summary judgment was appropriate in this matter.”  Id. at 11-12.

Novartis is represented in this matter by Firm partner Heather A. Pigman.