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The U.S. District Judge recently assigned to preside over all federal Invokana lawsuits will meet with the parties later this week, for an initial case management conference in the multidistrict litigation (MDL) over Johnson & Johnson’s failure to warn about the risk of diabetic ketoacidosis, kidney failure, heart attacks and other problems linked to the popular, new-generation diabetes treatment.
Following a hearing before the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation last month, all product liability lawsuits filed throughout the federal court system over the side effects of Invokana have been centralized before U.S. District Judge Brian Martinotti in the District of New Jersey to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different courts and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and judicial system.
While there are currently only about 100 cases pending nationwide, as Invokana lawyers continue to review and file complaints on behalf of individuals who experienced problems after switching to the new diabetes treatment, it is ultimately expected that several thousand lawsuits will be consolidated before Judge Martinotti for coordinated discovery and a series of bellwether trials, which are designed to gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the litigation.
According to an initial case management order (PDF) issued last month, Judge Martinotti will hold the first case management conference in the Invokana MDL on January 12, at which time lawyers representing plaintiffs and the drug maker are expected to discuss the current status litigation and organizational structure of the MDL.
Judge Martinotti also indicates that the parties will discuss any amendments necessary for the pleadings, considerations for any Invokana class action allegations, as well as a proposed discovery plan to prepare cases for trial.
It is also expected that Judge Martinotti will soon appoint a small group of plaintiffs’ attorneys to serve in various leadership roles, including liaison counsel and a Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee, which will take actions during the MDL proceedings that benefit all plaintiffs in the litigation.
Invokana (canagliflozin) was the first member of this new generation diabetes drug to hit the market, and it has been aggressively marketed by Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals subsidiary since March 2013, as a superior treatment option for diabetics. During the few short years Invokana has been on the market, it quickly became a blockbuster diabetes drug and individuals nationwide have been switched from other treatment options.
It is part of a new class of medications, known as sodium glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT-2) inhibitors, which work in a unique way, by altering some normal kidney functions to increase the amount of suger excreted in the urine. However, as more individuals have used the new generation diabetes treatments, a number of serious health risks have emerged, including diabetic ketoacidosis, heart attacks and kidney failure.
Plaintiffs allege that Johnson & Johnson failed to adequately research the medication before aggressively promoting the drug, withholding important safety information that consumers and doctors would have relied on when deciding whether to use the new type of treatment.
Following coordinated pretrial proceedings and any bellwether trials that may be held to help the parties gauge the relative strengths and weaknesses of the cases, if Invokana settlements are not reached by the drug maker, each individual lawsuit may ultimately be remanded back to the U.S. District Court where it was originally filed for a separate trial in the future.