Byetta, Januvia Attorneys Assigned to Leadership Roles in Federal MDL

Following an initial status conference last week in the federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) established for all pancreatic cancer lawsuits over Januvia, Janumet, Byetta and Victoza, a group of plaintiffs’ attorneys have been appointed to serve in various leadership roles during the coordinated pretrial proceedings.

In August, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) ordered the centralized management of all Byetta lawsuits, Januvia lawsuits, Janumet lawsuits, and Victoza lawsuits filed in U.S. District Courts nationwide involving individuals who allege they developed pancreatic cancer from side effects of the popular diabetes drugs, which are all part of a class of medications known as incretin mimetics.

The cases have been assigned to U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Battaglia in the Southern District of California to reduce duplicative discovery across a large number of cases, to avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different judges and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.

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On October 17, an initial conference was held before Judge Battaglia to review the organization and structure of the federal proceedings.

Following that meeting, Judge Battaglia issued an order (PDF) on October 21, appointing nearly two dozen attorneys to serve in leadership roles in the litigation. These lawyers will take certain actions during the discovery and pretrial proceedings that benefit all plaintiffs who have brought a case.

Three attorneys were appointed to serve as Co-Lead Counsel, with another four attorneys appointed to serve on the Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee and 13 attorneys appointed to the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee. Another two attorneys were appointed as Co-Liaison Counsel, coordinating the distribution of pleadings, orders, discovery and other documents, as well as one attorney appointed to serve as State and Federal Court Liaison.

Incretin Mimetic Diabetes Drug Pancreatic Cancer Concerns

There are currently at least 150 cases centralized as part of the incretin mimetics pancreatic cancer MDL. However, many expect that thousands of cases will ultimately be filed over the coming months and years as individuals learn about the connection between their cancer diagnosis and the use of the diabetes drugs.

The complaints involve similar allegations that the manufacturers failed to adequately research the medications or provide adequate warnings to users or the medical community about the risk of pancreatic cancer.

Byetta (exenatide) was the first member of this class approved by the FDA, introduced by Amylin Pharmaceuticals in 2005 as a twice daily injection. Januvia (sitagliptin) was introduced by Merck the following year as an oral medication, and a combination pill containing Januvia and the older diabetes medication metformin was introduced in 2007 under the brand name Janumet. Victoza (liraglutide) was introduced by Novo Nordisk in 2010 as a daily injection.

The medications are widely used among individuals with type 2 diabetes, generating billions in annual sales. Januvia and Janumet are among the best selling medications for the global pharmaceutical company Merck, generating about $4 billion in sales last year. Victoza sales were about $1.8 billion last year for Novo Nordisk and Byetta earned a reported $149 million for Amylin Pharmaceuticals.

Most of the pancreatic cancer lawsuits filed against the drug makers have come since March 2013, when the FDA and European drug regulators announced an investigation into the effect of the medications on the pancreas. The investigation came after the results of a small, independent study found evidence of precancerous cells in the pancreas of users of the drugs.

Side effects of Byetta, Januvia and other increatin mimetics have previously been linked to a risk of acute pancreatitis, which several studies have suggested may develop into pancreatic cancer among some users. The complaints allege that the drug makers ignored information about the link to pancreatic cancer and withheld information about the potential risk.

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