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Expert Challenges in Benicar Gastrointestinal Injury Lawsuits to be Heard in May 2017

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The U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal Benicar injury lawsuits has outlined the deadlines for challenges to the admissibility of expert testimony on general causation, scheduling oral arguments for mid-May, which may clear the path for bellwether trials to begin later this year. 

There are currently more than 1,800 product liability lawsuits pending against Daiichi Sankyo and Forest Laboratories in the federal court system, each involving allegations that the drug makers failed to adequately warn about the potential gastrointestinal side effects of Benicar, indicating that the hypertension drug caused users to suffer severe and chronic diarrhea, as well as other long-term stomach problems.

Plaintiffs claim that the drug makers knew or should have known for years about the link between Benicar and diarrhea, which can surface months or even years after first use of the drug. However, as a result of the drug makers’ failure to warn consumers and the medical community, plaintiffs indicate that doctors often continued patients on the drug, increasing the risk of severe intestinal damage, known as villous atrophy.

The Benicar litigation emerged after the FDA required the drug makers to update the warning label in July 2013, indicating for the first time that the there was clear evidence the drug may cause severe diarrhea problems, which are commonly misdiagnosed as celiac disease or not attributed to use of Benicar.

Given the similar questions of fact and law raised, the cases are centralized for pretrial proceedings before U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler in the District of New Jersey, as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation.

As part of the Benicare MDL proceedings, the parties have been preparing a number of cases for early trial dates, known as “bellwether” lawsuits, which are designed to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the litigation.

In a case management order (PDF) issued on January 30, Judge Kugler called for parties to submit Daubert motions on the issue of general causation before March 31, 2017, which involve challenges to the admissibility of expert testimony offered by each side. Opposition briefs to those motions are due by April 21, with arguments scheduled to begin on Monday, May 15, 2017.

This schedule suggests that the first Benicar bellwether trials may be able to go before juries by the end of this year. While the outcomes of these cases will not be binding on other lawsuits, they will be closely watched and may facilitate potential Benicar settlements to avoid the need for hundreds of individual trials to be scheduled in courts throughout the country.

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