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The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) is scheduled to hear oral arguments next month over whether to establish centralized pretrial proceedings for all lawsuits filed throughout the federal court system over the failure to warn about side effects of proton pump inhibitors (PPI), such as Nexium, Prilosec and other widely used heartburn medications.
Proton pump inhibitors are used by millions of Americans to treat heartburn and acid reflux drugs, including some of the top selling drugs in the world.
Since the manufacturers of Nexium, Prilosec, Prevacid, Protonix, Dexilant and other PPI have suggested that the medications carry few serious side effects, many individuals remain on the medications long-term, with little or no attempt to reduce use. However, several studies published in recent years have found that some users face an increased risk of kidney injury, acute interstitial nephritis, chronic kidney disease and kidney failure from PPI drugs.
While there are currently only about a 14 cases pending in 11 federal court districts nationwide, attorneys who brought the MDL motion indicate that there are likely to be thousands of Nexium lawsuits, Prilosec lawsuits, Prevacid lawsuits, Protonix lawsuits,Dexilant lawsuits and other claims involving proton pump inhibitors filed in the coming months.
In a notice of hearing session (PDF) issued on December 15, the JPML announced that it will hear oral arguments over whether to consolidate the cases before one judge for pretrial proceedings on January 26, 2017, at the Wilkie D. Ferguson, Jr. United States Courthouse in Miami, Florida.
A group of plaintiffs filed a motion to transfer with the JPML in October, indicating that cases filed in U.S. District Courts throughout the country be consolidated before one judge to prevent duplicative discovery into common issues in the cases, avoid contradictory rulings from different judges, and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the judicial system.
The motion called for the cases to be consolidated in the Middle District of Louisiana.
PPI Kidney Risks
The first warnings about any kidney issues with PPIs were added to the drug labels in December 2014, indicating that there may be a risk of acute interstitial nephritis (AIN) risk from Nexium, Prilosec and other proton pump inhibitors. This condition involves inflammation of the kidneys, but plaintiffs maintain that the warnings do not go far enough to raise awareness about the serious risks associated with these medications.
In April 2015, a study published in the medical journal CMAJ Open found that Nexium, Prilosec, and other PPIs cause a 3 times higher risk of acute interstitial nephritis, but were also associated with a 2.5 times higher risk of acute kidney injury, which involves an abrupt loss of kidney function.
Earlier this year, a study published in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine built on these findings, examining data on more than 10,000 participants over a period of more than 10 years, finding that the drugs were also associated with a higher incidence of chronic kidney disease.
In April 2016, researchers with the Department of Veterans Affairs found that users of Nexium, Prilosec or other PPIs may be 96% more likely to develop kidney failure and 28% more likely to develop chronic kidney disease after five years of use.
If an MDL is established for the proton pump inhibitor lawsuits, as lawyers continue to review and file cases in the future, they would be transferred into the consolidated proceedings. However, if settlements or another resolution is not reached in the MDL, each case may ultimately be remanded back to the U.S. District Court where it was originally filed for a separate trial date in the future.