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Daiich Sankyo and Forest Laboratories have been given two extra weeks in which to respond to a recent motion filed to centralize all Benicar lawsuits brought throughout the federal court system on behalf of individuals who allege that the popular blood pressure drug caused them to suffer chronic diarrhea and other gastrointestinal problems.
After a request to consolidate all Benicar diarrhea cases was filed on December 18, the drug makers were originally supposed to file a response this week with their position on whether the complaints should be centralized before one judge as part of a federal multidistrict litigation, or MDL. However, Daiichi Sankyo and Forest filed a motion (PDF) on December 24, asking for an extension due to the holidays.
The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation granted the request on December 29, indicating that the drug makers have until January 23, 2015 to file their response.
The original motion was filed by plaintiff Annette Johnson, seeking to centralize cases filed in U.S. District Courts throughout the country before Judge Dan Aaron Polster in the Northern District of Ohio to reduce duplicative discovery, avoid conflicting rulings from different judges and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.
At least 15 cases have been filed nationwide, and the number of complaints is continuing to grow as Benicar injury lawyers review and file new claims on behalf of individuals who have experienced chronic diarrhea, weight loss and other symptoms of a medical condition known as sprue-like enteropathy.
All of the complaints raise nearly identical allegations, claiming that the drug makers failed to adequately warn about the potential side effects of Benicar, which have prevented doctors and the medical community from recognizing that chronic diarrhea problems experienced by users may be caused by the hypertension drug.
The litigation has arisen since the FDA required the drug makers to update the Benicar warning label in July 2013, indicating for the first time that users of the blood pressure drug may face an increased risk of sprue-like enteropathy from Benicar. This may cause users to experience symptoms like chronic diarrhea, abdominal pain, weight loss and other gastrointestinal problems that can surface months or even years after the medication is started.
Although the medication has been on the market for more than 10 years, information about the link between Benicar and diarrhea problems were not known within the medical community until the FDA warnings, resulting in many former users experiencing complications from the medication for years.
In many cases, users have repeatedly been hospitalizations because doctors were unaware that the symptoms may be caused by their blood pressure medication. The Benicar problems have often been misdiagnosed as Celiac disease or unclassified sprue, resulting in continued use of the medication, which could leave users with long-term intestinal damage.
Although the diarrhea symptoms associated with sprue-like enteropathy typically resolve when the medication is no longer used, the problems can cause permanent damage to the intestines, known as villous atrophy from Benicar.
It is ultimately expected that hundreds, if not thousands, of Benicar cases will be filed on behalf of individuals throughout the U.S., with the number of complaints likely to increase over the coming months as the two-year anniversary of the FDA warning update approaches. Since many states require that any complaint be filed within two years from when an individual first learns that an injury may have been caused by use of a medication, the statute of limitations in many states may require that individuals who experienced Benicar problems file their complaint prior to July 2015.