The Company is involved in various claims and legal proceedings of a nature considered normal to its business, including product liability, intellectual property, and commercial litigation, as well as certain additional matters including governmental and environmental matters. In the opinion of the Company, it is unlikely that the resolution of these matters will be material to the Company’s financial condition, results of operations or cash flows.
Given the nature of the litigation discussed below and the complexities involved in these matters, the Company is unable to reasonably estimate a possible loss or range of possible loss for such matters until the Company knows, among other factors, (i) what claims, if any, will survive dispositive motion practice, (ii) the extent of the claims, including the size of any potential class, particularly when damages are not specified or are indeterminate, (iii) how the discovery process will affect the litigation, (iv) the settlement posture of the other parties to the litigation and (v) any other factors that may have a material effect on the litigation.
The Company records accruals for contingencies when it is probable that a liability has been incurred and the amount can be reasonably estimated. These accruals are adjusted periodically as assessments change or additional information becomes available. For product liability claims, a portion of the overall accrual is actuarially determined and considers such factors as past experience, number of claims reported and estimates of claims incurred but not yet reported. Individually significant contingent losses are accrued when probable and reasonably estimable. Legal defense costs expected to be incurred in connection with a loss contingency are accrued when probable and reasonably estimable.
The Company’s decision to obtain insurance coverage is dependent on market conditions, including cost and availability, existing at the time such decisions are made. The Company has evaluated its risks and has determined that the cost of obtaining product liability insurance outweighs the likely benefits of the coverage that is available and, as such, has no insurance for most product liabilities.
Reference is made below to certain litigation in which Merck, but not Organon, is named as a defendant. Pursuant to Section 4.02 of the Separation and Distribution Agreement between Organon and Merck, Organon is required to indemnify Merck for liabilities relating to, arising from, or resulting from such litigation.
Product Liability Litigation
Merck is a defendant in product liability lawsuits in the United States involving Fosamax ("Fosamax Litigation"). As of March 31, 2021, approximately 3,485 cases are pending against Merck in either federal or state court. Plaintiffs in the vast majority of these cases generally allege that they sustained femur fractures and/or other bone injuries ("Femur Fractures") in association with the use of Fosamax.
All federal cases involving allegations of Femur Fractures have been or will be transferred to a multidistrict litigation in the District of New Jersey ("Femur Fracture MDL"). In the only bellwether case tried to date in the Femur Fracture MDL, Glynn v. Merck, the jury returned a verdict in Merck’s favor. In addition, in June 2013, the Femur Fracture MDL court granted Merck’s motion for judgment as a matter of law in the Glynn case and held that the plaintiff’s failure to warn claim was preempted by federal law.
In August 2013, the Femur Fracture MDL court entered an order requiring plaintiffs in the Femur Fracture MDL to show cause why those cases asserting claims for a femur fracture injury that took place prior to September 14, 2010, should not be dismissed based on the court’s preemption decision in the Glynn case. Pursuant to the show cause order, in March 2014, the Femur Fracture MDL court dismissed with prejudice approximately 650 cases on preemption grounds. Plaintiffs in approximately 515 of those cases appealed that decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ("Third Circuit"). In March 2017, the Third Circuit issued a decision reversing the Femur Fracture MDL court’s preemption ruling and remanding the appealed cases back to the Femur Fracture MDL court. In May 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the Third Circuit had incorrectly concluded that the issue of preemption should be resolved by a jury, and accordingly vacated the judgment of the Third Circuit and remanded the proceedings back to the Third Circuit to address the issue in a manner consistent with the Supreme Court’s opinion. In November 2019, the Third Circuit remanded the cases back to the District Court in order to allow that court to determine in the first instance whether the plaintiffs’ state law claims are preempted by federal law under the standards described by the Supreme Court in its opinion. Briefing on the issue is closed, and the parties await the decision of the District Court.
Accordingly, as of March 31, 2021, approximately 970 cases were actively pending in the Femur Fracture MDL.
As of March 31, 2021, approximately 2,235 cases alleging Femur Fractures have been filed in New Jersey state court and are pending before Judge James Hyland in Middlesex County. The parties selected an initial group of cases to be reviewed through fact discovery, and Merck has continued to select additional cases to be reviewed.
As of March 31, 2021, approximately 275 cases alleging Femur Fractures have been filed and are pending in California state court. All of the Femur Fracture cases filed in California state court have been coordinated before a single judge in Orange County, California.
Additionally, there are five Femur Fracture cases pending in other state courts.
Discovery is presently stayed in the Femur Fracture MDL and in the state court in California.
Merck is a defendant in lawsuits brought by individuals relating to the use of Implanon and Nexplanon. In the United States, as of March 31, 2021, there were two filed product liability actions involving Implanon, both of which are pending in the Northern District of Ohio. In addition, there are 56 unfiled cases alleging similar injuries, which have been tolled under a written tolling agreement. There was one filed action related to Nexplanon in the United States seeking compensation for alleged injuries or medical bills involving a complicated removal of Nexplanon. The plaintiff voluntarily dismissed the action without prejudice in March 2021. As of March 31, 2021, Merck had 25 cases pending outside the United States, of which 20 relate to Implanon and five relate to Nexplanon.
Merck is a defendant in product liability lawsuits in the United States involving Propecia and/or Proscar. The lawsuits were filed in various federal courts and in state court in New Jersey. The federal lawsuits were then consolidated for pretrial purposes in a federal multidistrict litigation in the Eastern District of New York (the "MDL"), and Judge Brian Cogan now presides over these matters. The matters pending in state court in New Jersey were consolidated in Middlesex County ("N.J. Coordinated Proceedings"). The N.J. Coordinated Proceedings have now concluded. Merck is also defending a Propecia matter in state court in Los Angeles, California.
In 2018, Merck and the Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee in the MDL and the Plaintiffs’ Liaison Counsel in the N.J. Coordinated Proceedings entered into an agreement to resolve the above mentioned Propecia/Proscar lawsuits for an aggregate amount of $4.3 million. The settlement was subject to certain contingencies, including 95% plaintiff participation and a per plaintiff clawback if the participation rate was less than 100%. The contingencies were satisfied and the settlement agreement has been finalized. At March 31, 2021, fewer than 10 cases remain pending in the United States. The Company is also defending 16 product liability cases outside the United States.
Merck Sharp & Dohme Farmaceutica Ltda. is a named defendant in product liability cases in Brazil alleging personal injury or economic loss as a result of the purchase or use of Vioxx, including two individual actions and seven putative class action proceedings. Organon will not be liable for the results of the Vioxx litigation.
From time to time, Organon’s subsidiaries may receive inquiries and may be the subject of preliminary investigation activities from competition and other governmental authorities in markets outside the United States. These authorities may include regulators, administrative authorities, and law enforcement and other similar officials, and these preliminary
investigation activities may include site visits, formal or informal requests or demands for documents or materials, inquiries or interviews and similar matters. Certain of these preliminary inquiries or activities may lead to the commencement of formal proceedings. Should those proceedings be determined adversely to the Company, monetary fines and/or remedial undertakings may be required.
Commercial and Other Litigation
Zetia Antitrust Litigation
Merck, MSD, Schering Corporation and MSP Singapore Company LLC (collectively, the Merck Defendants) are defendants in putative class action and opt-out lawsuits filed in 2018 on behalf of direct and indirect purchasers of Zetia alleging violations of federal and state antitrust laws, as well as other state statutory and common law causes of action. The cases have been consolidated for pretrial purposes in a federal multidistrict litigation before Judge Rebecca Beach Smith in the Eastern District of Virginia. In December 2018, the court denied the Merck Defendants’ motions to dismiss or stay the direct purchaser putative class actions pending bilateral arbitration. In August 2019, the district court adopted in full the report and recommendation of the magistrate judge with respect to the Merck Defendants’ motions to dismiss on non-arbitration issues, thereby granting in part and denying in part Merck Defendants’ motions to dismiss. In addition, in June 2019, the representatives of the putative direct purchaser class filed an amended complaint, and in August 2019, retailer opt-out plaintiffs filed an amended complaint. In December 2019, the district court granted the Merck Defendants’ motion to dismiss to the extent the motion sought dismissal of claims for overcharges paid by entities that purchased generic ezetimibe from Par Pharmaceutical, Inc. (Par Pharmaceutical) and dismissed any claims for such overcharges. In November 2019, the direct purchaser plaintiffs and the indirect purchaser plaintiffs filed motions for class certification. In August 2020, the district court granted in part the direct purchasers’ motion for class certification and certified a class of 35 direct purchasers and, in November 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit granted the Merck Defendants’ motion for permission to appeal the district court’s order. The Fourth Circuit will hear argument in Defendants’ appeal on May 6, 2021. Also, in August 2020, the magistrate judge recommended that the court grant the motion for class certification filed by the putative indirect purchaser class. The Merck Defendants objected to this report and recommendation and are awaiting a decision from the district court.
In August 2020, the Merck Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment and other motions, and plaintiffs filed a motion for partial summary judgment, and other motions. Those motions are now fully briefed, and the court will likely hold a hearing on the competing motions. Trial in this matter has been adjourned.
In September 2020, United Healthcare Services, Inc. filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota against Merck and others (the UHC Action). The UHC Action makes similar allegations as those made in the Zetia class action. In September 2020, the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation transferred the case to the Eastern District of Virginia to proceed with the multidistrict Zetia litigation already in progress.
In December 2020, Humana Inc. filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of San Francisco, against Merck and others, alleging defendants violated state antitrust laws in multiple states. Also, in December 2020, Centene Corporation and others filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of San Francisco, against the same defendants as Humana. Both lawsuits allege similar anticompetitive acts to those alleged in the Zetia class action.
Organon will not be liable for the results of the Zetia Antitrust litigation.
From time to time, generic manufacturers of pharmaceutical products file abbreviated New Drug Applications ("NDAs") with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ("FDA") seeking to market generic forms of the Company’s products prior to the expiration of relevant patents owned by the Company. To protect its patent rights, the Company may file patent infringement lawsuits against such generic companies. Similar lawsuits defending the Company’s patent rights may exist in other countries. The Company intends to vigorously defend its patents, which it believes are valid, against infringement by companies attempting to market products prior to the expiration of such patents. As with any litigation, there can be no assurance of the outcomes, which, if adverse, could result in significantly shortened periods of exclusivity for these products, potential payment of damages and legal fees, and, with respect to products acquired through acquisitions, potentially significant intangible asset impairment charges.
Nexplanon — In June 2017, Microspherix LLC ("Microspherix") sued the Company in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey asserting that the manufacturing, use, sale and importation of Nexplanon infringed several of Microspherix’s patents that claim radio-opaque, implantable drug delivery devices. Microspherix is claiming damages from September 2014 until those patents expire in May 2021. The Company brought Inter Partes Review ("IPR") proceedings in the United States Patent and Trademark Office ("USPTO") and successfully stayed the district court action. The USPTO
invalidated some, but not all, of the claims asserted against the Company. The Company appealed the decisions finding claims valid, and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the USPTO’s decisions. The matter is no longer stayed in the district court, and the Company is currently litigating the invalidity and non-infringement of the remaining asserted claims.
There are various other pending legal proceedings involving the Company, principally product liability and intellectual property lawsuits. While it is not feasible to predict the outcome of such proceedings, in the opinion of the Company, either the likelihood of loss is remote or any reasonably possible loss associated with the resolution of such proceedings is not expected to be material to the Company’s financial condition, results of operations or cash flows either individually or in the aggregate.
Legal Defense Reserves
Legal defense costs expected to be incurred in connection with a loss contingency are accrued when probable and reasonably estimable. Some of the significant factors considered in the review of these legal defense reserves are as follows: the actual costs incurred by the Company; the development of the Company’s legal defense strategy and structure in light of the scope of its litigation; the number of cases being brought against the Company; the costs and outcomes of completed trials and the most current information regarding anticipated timing, progression, and related costs of pre-trial activities and trials in the associated litigation. The amount of legal defense reserves as of March 31, 2021 and December 31, 2020 of approximately $30 million and $35 million, respectively, represents the Company’s best estimate of the minimum amount of defense costs to be incurred in connection with its outstanding litigation; however, events such as additional trials and other events that could arise in the course of its litigation could affect the ultimate amount of legal defense costs to be incurred by the Company. The Company will continue to monitor its legal defense costs and review the adequacy of the associated reserves and may determine to increase the reserves at any time in the future if, based upon the factors set forth, it believes it would be appropriate to do so.