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Motion to Establish Byetta MDL for Thyroid Cancer Lawsuits Withdrawn

A recently filed request to add all Byetta thyroid cancer lawsuits to the consolidated federal litigation being handled in the Southern District of California was withdrawn this week.

On February 18, attorneys representing plaintiff Elizabeth Childress filed a motion to withdraw (PDF) a previous request that called for the creation of a new MDL, or Multidistrict Litigation before U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Battaglia for all product liability lawsuits filed throughout the federal court system by individuals who allege they developed thyroid cancer from Byetta side effects.

Judge Battaglia is already presiding over an MDL established for all Byetta lawsuitsJanuvia lawsuitsJanumet lawsuits and Victoza lawsuits that involve allegations that plaintiffs developed pancreatic cancer following use of the diabetes drugs, which are all part of a class of medications known as incretin mimetics.

In August 2013, the U.S. JPML established a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) for all pancreatic cancer lawsuits involving incretin mimetics, but the original motion (PDF) filed by Childress last month asked that all cases involving thyroid cancer from Byetta also be centralized before Judge Battaglia to avoid duplicative discovery, inconsistent rulings from different judges and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.

“Movants are withdrawing their motion to consolidate in order to facilitate further discussions with Defendants related to this motion,” the withdrawal notice filed this week states. “Plaintiffs believe it is in the interests of justice and efficiency that further discussions are had among counsel prior to presenting this motion to consolidate to the Panel for resolution.”

There are currently more than 300 cases pending before Judge Battaglia, but all of those cases involve individuals diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Following a status conference on January 16, Judge Battaglia indicated that the Court will continue to monitor discussions between the parties regarding the Byetta thyroid cancer cases to ensure a plan for managing the cases is put in place.

At the time the request was filed to establish a second MDL before Judge Battaglia, there were at least 36 different lawsuits pending in three different U.S. District Courts involving plaintiffs who allege they developed thyroid cancer from Byetta. However, Judge Battaglia indicated last month that there is a potential for this number to grow into something in the hundreds.

Diabetes Drug Cancer Risk

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 growing number of pancreatic cancer lawsuits have been filed against the makers of all four drugs, following a number of studies that linked side effects of Januvia, Janumet, Byetta and Victoza to an increased risk of pancreatitis, which plaintiffs allege causes the development of pancreatic cancer in many cases.

Byetta (exenatide) was the first member of the incretin mimetic class approved by the FDA, introduced by Amylin Pharmaceuticals in 2005 as a twice daily injection. Victoza (liraglutide) is a similar injectable diabetes drug introduced by Novo Nordisk in 2010 as a longer-acting daily injection.

Previous studies found that user of Victoza may increase the risk of thyroid cancer, which resulted in warnings being placed on that medication at the time it was introduced onto the market. Plaintiffs in the Byetta lawsuits over thyroid cancer allege that similar warnings should have been placed on this older medication, which has a similar mechanism of action and has also been linked to a large number of reports involving thyroid cancer diagnosis following long-term use.

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