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Byetta, Januvia Litigation Being Coordinated Between Federal, State Court

A joint status conference was held last week including both the federal and state court judges presiding over all lawsuits involving pancreatic cancer from Januvia, Byetta and other increatin mimetic diabetes drugs.

In the federal court system, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation has established centralized proceedings of all Byetta lawsuits, Januvia lawsuits, Janumet lawsuits and Victoza lawsuits filed in U.S. District Courts throughout the country by former users of the diabetes drugs diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

There are currently at least 262 cases centralized as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation, before U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Battaglia in the Southern District of California. The cases are consolidated for discovery and pretrial proceedings, as well as a series of bellwether trials designed to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the litigation.

All of the lawsuits involve similar allegations that the makers of Byetta, Januvia, Janumet and Victoza failed to provide adequate warnings for users and the medical community about the risk of pancreatic cancer from the class of diabetes drugs, which are known as incretin mimetics.

A number of similar cases have also been filed in California state court, where a Judicial Council Coordinated Proceeding (JCCP) has been established before Judge William F. Highberger in the Los Angeles Superior Court.

According to an Order (PDF) issued by Judge Battaglia, Judge Highberger participated in a status conference held in the federal MDL on January 16. Judge Highberger indicated that there have been no tensions between discovery related matters in the JCCP and the MDL proceedings.

A “Science Day” has been scheduled for February 5 and 6 in the federal MDL, where the parties are expected to present information to the court about the background of the incretin mimetic diabetes drugs and the potential risk of pancreatic cancer. Judge Highberger has indicated that he will participate in the Science Day, but does not plan to participating in future Case Management Conferences in the MDL unless issues require it.

Scope of Incretin Mimetic Litigation

Byetta, Januvia, Janumet and Victoza are all part of the incretin mimetic class of diabetes drugs, which work by mimicking the incretin hormones the body usually produces to naturally stimulate the release of insulin in response to a meal.

A number of studies have linked the medications to an increased risk of pancreatitis, which plaintiffs allege causes the development of pancreatic cancer in many cases.

When the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) established the incretin mimetic MDL in August 2013, transferring cases filed in U.S. District Courts throughout the country to Judge Battaglia’s court for coordinated handling during pretrial proceedings, the scope of the MDL was limited to cases involving the use of Byetta, Januvia, Janumet or Victoza and plaintiffs diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

As the litigation continues to mount, Judge Battaglia has noted that additional drugs or defendants may beccome part of the MDL proceedings at some point.

In addition to pancreatic cancer lawsuits, there are currently at least 35 pending in the Southern District of California involving plaintiffs diagnosed with thyroid cancer from Byetta. These lawsuits are not currently part of the MDL, but counsel indicated during the status conference that they are considering filing a motion with the U.S. JPML to expand the scope of the MDL to include these cases.

A number of similar cases have also filed against AstraZeneca and Bristol-Myers Squibb, involving plaintiffs diagnosed with pancreatic cancer from Onglyzer, another incretin mimetic drug that is not currently joined with the MDL. Judge Battaglia indicates in the order issued following the status conference that this issue will be monitored and addressed again at the next status conference, as a determination may need to be made about whether to add these cases to the MDL proceedings.

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