Benicar Lawyers to Seek Leadership Positions in Federal MDL

Following an initial status conference last week with the U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal Benicar lawsuits, a number of plaintiffs lawyers are expected to apply for various leadership roles in the multidistrict litigation (MDL).

Amid a growing number of product liability lawsuits filed by individuals nationwide who allege that they suffered chronic diarrhea from side effects of Benicar, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) established consolidated pretrial proceedings for the cases last month.

Dozens of different lawsuits pending throughout the country have been transferred to U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler in the District of New Jersey to coordinate discovery, avoid conflicting rulings and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.

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Benicar Lawsuits

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

All of the cases involved in the federal Benicar litigation raise similar allegations, claiming that Daiichi Sankyo and Forest Laboratories failed to adequately warn consumers and the medical community that popular blood pressure drug may cause users to develop sprue-like enteropathy, with symptoms appearing months or even years after first use of the medication. This has caused many users to experience severe and debilitating diarrhea, often resulting in repeated hospitalization and permanent gastrointestinal problems.

On April 29, Judge Kugler held an initial status conference with all lawyers involved in the Benicar cases, where the organizational structure of the MDL proceedings was discussed, as well as the current status of discovery in cases and whether any progress has been made towards reaching Benicar settlements.

In an order (PDF) issued after the conference, Judge Kugler appointed attorneys to serve as liaison counsel for each side, and indicated that plaintiffs must submit a proposal this week for Benicar lawyers who will serve on a Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee and/or Executive Committee, which will take certain actions during the litigation that benefit all individuals who have filed claims.

Plaintiffs have also been ordered to file a Master Complaint and corresponding Short Form Complaint for each case within the next 30 days, after which the Defendants will file a Master Answer, as well as corresponding Short Form Answers.

The next status conference is scheduled for May 20, 2015, at which time it is expected that the Court will discuss a direct filing order, a plan for initial discovery and other preliminary matters.

Benicar Diarrhea Risks

Benicar is a hypertension drug that is part of a family of medications that all have the same pharmaceutical ingredient, olmesartan, including Benicar HCT, Azor and Tribenzor. Each of the medications are manufactured by Daiichi Sankyo, and all have been linked to a potential risk of sprue-like enteropathy.

Although olmesartans have been on the market for more than a decade, the first warnings about the potential link between Benicar and diarrhea problems were not provided until July 2013, when the FDA required the drug maker to update the warning label to indicate that users may experience symptoms of sprue-like enteropathy months or even years after first use of 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. However, after experiencing these problems over long-periods of time, users may face a risk of suffering villous atrophy from Benicar, which results in permanent gastrointestinal problems and reduced digestive capability, leading to chronic malnourishment and dehydration.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuits allege that Daiichi Sankyo and Forest Laboratories knew or should have known about the link between Benicar and sprue-like enteropathy for years, yet placed their desire for profits before consumers safety by withholding the information.

As a result of the lack of warnings prior to July 2013, 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.

Benicar Litigation

At the time the U.S. JPML centralized the Benicar injury lawsuits before Judge Kugler, there were at least 35 product liability lawsuits pending in 23 different U.S. District Courts.

As Benicar lawyers continue to review and file cases, it is ultimately expected that several thousand cases will be included in the MDL.

Following coordinated discovery in the MDL, it is expected that Judge Kugler will hold a series of early trial dates, known as “bellwether” cases, which are designed to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the litigation.

If the drug makers fail to reach settlements or otherwise resolve the litigation after the bellwether trials, hundreds of individual cases may be remanded back to U.S. District Courts nationwide for separate trial dates to determine whether a failure to warn about the Benicar risks caused the plaintiff’s injury.

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