Novo Nordisk Supports Consolidation of Wegovy, Ozempic Stomach Paralysis Lawsuits in MDL

Dozens of lawsuits have been filed by users of Ozempic, Wegovy and other GLP-1 drugs involving stomach paralsysis or gastroparesis. However, Eli Lilly maintains that Mounjaro lawsuits should be excluded from the MDL.

In response to a growing number of Wegovy and Ozempic stomach paralysis lawsuits being filed in U.S. District Courts nationwide, Novo Nordisk has joined with plaintiffs in asking a panel of federal judge to consolidate and centralize the claims before one judge for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.

More than 40 complaints have been brought throughout the federal court system against Novo Nordisk and the manufacturers of similar weight loss and diabetes drugs, known as glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists, each raising similar allegations that users and the medical community were not adequately warned about the risk that side effects may cause permanent and debilitating stomach problems, known as gastroparesis or stomach paralysis.

In addition to the filed lawsuits, Ozempic stomach paralysis lawyers have reported that thousands of additional claims are under active investigation, and the size and scope the the litigation is expected to increase dramatically in the coming months and years. As a result, a group of plaintiffs filed a motion with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) last month, calling for the centralization of all stomach paralysis lawsuits against GLP-1 manufacturers as part of one federal MDL, or multidistrict litigation.

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Manufacturers of Ozempic, Wegovy and Mounjaro Failed to Warn About Stomach Paralysis Risks

Novo Nordisk introduced Ozempic (semaglutide) as a breakthrough treatment for type 2 diabetes in late 2017. However, given the drug’s effectiveness at promoting weight loss, it has been widely prescribed off-label as a diet drug, leading the manufacturer to introduce another version of the medication under the brand name Wegovy, which has been specifically approved to treat obesity.

The drugs are part of a new class of medications known GLP-1 receptor agonists, which work by delaying gastric emptying, promoting feelings of fullness and encouraging users to eat less.

Eli Lilly also markets a similar drug under the brand name Mounjaro (tirzepatide), which was approved by the FDA in 2022. A second version of that medication was introduced late last year, under the brand name Zepbound, which is now approved as a weight loss treatment.

Although the medications have been promoted as safe and effective, with few long-term side effects, Ozempic lawsuits, Wegovy lawsuits and Mounjaro lawsuits are now being pursued by former users who indicate that they have been left with permanent injuries after their stomachs became paralyzed while using the medication, typically resulting in severe vomiting, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal complications, often requiring hospitalization.

Plaintiffs maintain that they may have avoided the stomach paralysis side effects if the drug makers had fully disclosed the potential risks for users and the medical community, indicating that common questions of fact and law raised in the various different lawsuits justify centralizing the claims before one judge in Louisiana, for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.

Novo Nordisk Supports Ozempic MDL

In a response (PDF) to the MDL petition filed on December 29, Novo Nordisk indicates that it supports the consolidation of the claims in one court, since plaintiffs have already filed at least 41 claims, and that number appears likely to grow.

“Coordinated discovery (at least with respect to the cases involving gastrointestinal claims) will avoid the unnecessary use of judicial resources in multiple federal courts, prevent inconsistent rulings on pretrial motions, and eliminate the burden of duplicative discovery,” according to the response filed by Novo Nordisk. “In addition, plaintiffs’ complaints allege overlapping scientific theories; thus, there is a need for the coordinated, rigorous evaluation of proposed expert testimony.”

While the maker of Ozempic and Wegovy does agree the stomach paralysis lawsuits should all be transferred to one judge, Novo Nordisk opposed the plaintiffs’ proposal that the claims be centralized in Louisiana, indicating that the courts fluctuating case load and difficulties traveling to the location for some parties make it an inappropriate venue. Instead, the company indicates the cases should be transferred to the Middle District of North Carolina, near Novo Nordisk’s manufacturing facilities.

Eli Lilly Wants Mounjaro Stomach Paralysis Lawsuits Excluded

In contrast to the position of Novo Nordisk, Eli Lilly filed a different response (PDF) on the same day, indicating that it believes the few Mounjaro stomach paralysis lawsuits filed so far should not be included as part of any MDL the panel decides to establish, noting that most claims have only involved use of Novo Nordisk semaglutide products, Ozempic and Wegovy. In addition, those cases seem to primarily focus on plaintiffs who used the drugs for weight loss, the company indicates.

“A small number of cases were filed against Lilly too. But until earlier this month (December 2023), Lilly never sold any medicine approved by the FDA to treat chronic weight management, and lawsuits against Lilly are but a fraction of the cases Movants propose to consolidate here,” Eli Lilly’s response states. “As of the date of this filing, the overwhelming majority of cases include claims against Novo (88%), and 76% of cases are filed only against Novo.”

Only 10 claims filed so far have had any connection to Eli Lilly’s Mounjaro, compared to 37 involving Novo Nordisk products, the company notes. It does not appear that any Zepbound stomach paralysis lawsuits have been filed, since the drug has only been in distribution for a few weeks.

JPML Hearing Scheduled For January 25, 2024

The U.S. JPML has scheduled oral arguments on the motion to centralize all GLP-1 stomach paralysis lawsuits for January 25, 2024, at the U.S. Courthouse in the Central District of California.

At that time, the panel will consider the positions of both drug makers, as well as various plaintiffs who have voiced positions on the motion, and determine which claims justify centralization and what the most appropriate forum is.

In complex pharmaceutical litigation, where large numbers of claims are brought by users of the same medication or medical product, each experiencing the same or similar injuries, it is common for the U.S. JPML to centralize the litigation to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues that will arise in all claims, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings and to serve the convenience of certain witnesses and parties who will be required to testify in each of the lawsuits.

If an MDL is established, the lawsuits will be transferred to wherever the U.S. JPML centralizes the pretrial proceedings. However, if the parties fail to negotiate Ozempic, Wegovy, and possibly Mounjaro, settlements for stomach paralysis injuries during the MDL proceedings, each individual claim may later be remanded back to the U.S. District Court where it was originally filed for trial.

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