Ritalin Class Actions: Fast Start, Big Stumble

The National Law Journal/July 30, 2001
By Bob Van Voris

Judges this spring threw out two of five class actions filed last year against New Jersey-based Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp., the manufacturer of Ritalin. And on July 25, a federal judge in Florida dismissed a third Ritalin class action at the request of the plaintiffs' lawyers.

John Coale, [an attorney and] leader on the plaintiffs' side says they've only begun the Ritalin fight.

A group that for years has been highly critical of Ritalin, Prozac and other psychiatric drugs is the Citizens' Committee for Human Rights, a group that is closely tied to the Church of Scientology.

Coale, a Scientologist, calls the issue of Scientology involvement a red herring. He says the committee has nothing to do with the current lawsuits, an assertion backed up by the group.

Coale is involved in three Ritalin cases, including those lost by plaintiffs in the spring.

But lawyers for Novartis and two nonprofit groups that were also sued say that the plaintiffs are trying to use the courts to short-circuit legitimate scientific debate over attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, the conditions that Ritalin and its generic siblings are used to treat.

"Whether there is such a thing as ADD, the criteria are so subjective that they're meaningless," says Coale, referring to attention deficit disorder.

In California, senior federal Judge Rudi M. Brewster of the Southern District ruled that the plaintiffs had failed to plead a valid cause of action and stated that the lawsuit targeted speech protected by the U.S. and California constitutions. And in Texas, federal Judge Hilda G. Tagle of the Southern District ruled in May that, despite two tries at amending the original complaint, the plaintiffs had failed to state a cause of action in that case as well. Motions to dismiss are pending in the Puerto Rico and New Jersey cases. A motion to dismiss in Florida became moot when the plaintiffs' lawyers decided in July to withdraw the case.

This isn't Coale's first run at Ritalin. In the 1980s he and other lawyers filed an unsuccessful wave of Ritalin lawsuits, including a case against the psychiatric association and a Georgia school board.

Edited Version

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.