Benicar Lawyers Set to Present Oral Arguments Over Lawsuit Centralization

A panel of federal judges will hear oral arguments today over whether all Benicar lawsuits pending in U.S. District Courts nationwide should be centralized before one judge for coordinated pretrial proceedings, as part of an MDL, or Multidistrict Litigation.

Daiichi Sankyo and Forest Laboratories currently face more than 33 product liability lawsuits spread throughout the federal court system involving injuries allegedly caused by side effects of Benicar, a popular blood pressure drug that has been linked to a risk of chronic diarrhea, weight loss and other symptoms of sprue-like enteropathy.

In December, a motion was filed with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) seeking to establish a Benicar MDL, which would centralize the lawsuits before one judge to reduce the risk of duplicative discovery, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.

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Side Effects of Benicar May Cause Diarrhea, Villous Atrophy and Sprue-Like Enteropathy

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According to a recent brief (PDF) filed in support of consolidation, the Benicar litigation is currently spread out among at least 19 different U.S. District Courts, including the Districts for Northern Ohio, Oregon, Central Illinois, Southern Illinois, Northern California, Central California, Southern California, Middle Louisiana, Eastern Louisiana, Eastern Tennessee, Northern Alabama, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Southern Iowa, Arizona, Northern Mississippi, Middle North Carolina and Southern New York.

However, with Benicar lawyers continuing to review and file cases for users of the drug who have been hospitalized from chronic diarrhea or other intestinal problems, the litigation is expected to continue to grow over the coming months.

“These cases are the proverbial tip of the iceberg,” the brief warns. “There are…expected to be hundreds if not thousands of people who bring claims against the Defendants for failing to warn them of the true risks of ingesting olmestartan, as well as designing a defective drug.”

Daiichi Sankyo and Forest Laboratories have opposed the creation of a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) for the Benicar cases, arguing that there are an insufficient number of claims and that informal coordination among the attorneys involved can achieve the same purposes. However, it appears that the litigation is growing at such a quick rate that it would be impractical to coordinate proceedings without a formal MDL established.

The U.S. JPML will hear oral arguments during a hearing scheduled for today at the James M. Carter and Judith N. Keep United States Courthouse in San Diego, California. The panel of judges will not only determine whether centralized management of the litigation is necessary, but determine the most appropriate venue for the cases if an MDL is established.

Benicar Injury Risks

All of the cases in the Benicar litigation raise similar allegations, indicating that Daiichi Sankyo and Forest Laboratories failed to adequately warn about the potential link between Benicar and diarrhea problems, which may surface months or even years after first use of the drug.

Benicar (olmesartan medoxomil) is part of a family of Daiichi Sankyo hypertension drugs, which also includes Benicar HCT, Azor and Tribenzor. All of the blood pressure drugs include the active ingredient olmesartan, which has been linked to the development sprue-like enteropathy.

With the medication first introduced over a decade ago, plaintiffs allege that the drug makers knew or should have known about the risks associated with Benicar, withheld information from consumers and the medical community.

The first official warnings about the issue were not provided until July 2013, when the FDA required a Benicar label change to indicate that users may experience symptoms of sprue-like enteropathy long after they start using the medication. Based on adverse event data that has been available to the drug makers for years, FDA officials concluded that there is “clear evidence” that Benicar may cause users to suffer chronic diarrhea, abdominal pain, weight loss and other gastrointestinal symptoms, which typically resolve when the medication is no longer used.

As a result of the lack of warnings provided by the drug makers prior to this update, many users have repeatedly been hospitalized with severe diarrhea, as 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.

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