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With a mounting number of Benicar lawsuits filed in New Jersey state court, Daiichi Sankyo and Forest Laboaratories are seeking to establish coordinated pretrial proceedings before one judge in the state, similar to the centralized management recently established in the federal court system.
According to a Notice to the Bar (PDF) issued by the acting administrator of the New Jersey courts on May 26, the drug makers filed an application with the New Jersey Supreme Court asking that all product liability lawsuits filed in the state involving Benicar or other drugs containing Olmesartan Medoxomil be consolidated as part of a Multi-County Litigation, or MCL.
The application indicates that there are at least 59 cases currently pending in New Jersey state court, all involving allegations that plaintiffs suffered chronic diarrhea or other symptoms of sprue-like enteropathy due to side effects of Benicar or other olmesartan-based blood pressure drugs.
Benicar (olmesartan medoxomil) is a blockbuster hypertension drug manufactured by Daiich Sankyo and Forest, which is part of a family of medications containing the same active ingredient, also including Benicar HCT, Azor and Tribenzor.
Over the past year, a growing number of individuals throughout the U.S. have filed a Benicar lawsuit claiming that the drug makers withheld important warnings about the risk that symptoms like chronic diarrhea or severe abdominal pain may surface months or even years after first use of the medications.
As a result of the failure to warn, most plaintiffs claim that they continued to experience problems from Benicar over long periods of time, since doctors were unable to recognize the cause of their symptoms.
Although symptoms typically resolve when the medication is no longer used, the long-term complications can cause erosion of the interior of the intestines, known as villous atrophy from Benicar, which can leave former users with permanent food intolerances, malnutrition and other problems similar to Celiac disease.
The application filed with the New Jersey Supreme Court seeks coordinated pretrial proceedings similar to those established in the federal court system, where all complaints filed in U.S. District Courts nationwide are centralized before one judge as part of an MDL, or Multi-District Litigation.
The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) established the consolidated pretrial proceedings in April, ordering that cases filed nationwide must be transferred to U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler in the District of New Jersey for discovery and a series of “bellwether” trials.
In New Jersey state court, the drug makers indicate that there are at least 58 Benicar cases pending in Atlantic County and one lawsuit has been filed in Hudson County.
“It makes no sense in the context of this litigation to have the cases proceed before different Judges in different counties,” the application to the New Jersey Supreme Court states. “Centralized Management in a Multi-County litigation venue, with an experienced Judge, will help ensure fairness to the parties, provide a streamlined approach to case management and avoid the possibility of duplicative motion practice and inconsistent discovery rulings between multiple Judges in Atlantic and Hudson Counties.”
As Benicar injury lawyers continue to review and filed cases for individuals who suffered chronic diarrhea or other gastrointestinal problems after using an olmasartan based drug, it is ultimately expected that Daiich Sankyo and Forest Laboratories will face several thousand complaints throughout the country.
Following coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings, it is expected that a series of early trial dates will be scheduled to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that will likely be repeated throughout the litigation. While the outcomes of these trials will not be binding on other cases, they may influence eventual negotiations by the drug makers to reach Benicar settlements that may avoid the need for hundreds of individual trial dates.