Management of Ozempic Lawsuit Pretrial Proceedings To Be Reassigned Following Death of MDL Judge

An Ozempic lawsuits "Science Day" scheduled for next month has been cancelled, pending reassignment of the MDL to a new judge.

As the number of Ozempic lawsuits, Wegovy lawsuits, Mounjaro lawsuits and other claims involving stomach paralysis caused by a popular new class of diabetes and weight loss drug continues to rapidly grow, the U.S. District Judge recently selected to preside over the litigation has died suddenly.

U.S. District Judge Gene E.K. Pratter passed away on May 17, reportedly due to complications associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). She was 75 years old, and had served in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania since 2004.

In February 2024, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation appointed Judge Pratter to preside over the coordinated pretrial proceedings for all lawsuits over GLP-1 RA drugs, which is ultimately expected to include several thousand claims brought by former users of the new-generation drugs who developed a painful and debilitating form of stomach paralysis, known as gastroparesis.

Delays Likely As Ozempic MDL Gets Underway

The litigation involves claims brought against manufacturers of Ozempic, Wegovy, Mounjaro, Zepbound, Trulicity and other glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1 RA) drugs, which have become some of the most widely used prescription medications on the market in the U.S. in recent years, given benefits promoting weight loss.

While the medications have been promoted as safe and effective, lawsuits claim there is growing evidence that users and the medical community were not adequately warned about the long-term risks associated with the medications.

With some estimates indicating that nearly 2% of the U.S. population has been prescribed one of the GLP-1 medications, either for diabetes treatment or weight loss, it was widely expected that the litigation will become a major mass tort in the coming months, and Judge Pratter had been working to establish the organizational structure and schedule for pretrial proceedings when she passed away.

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Lawyers are pursuing Ozempic lawsuits, Wegovy lawsuits and Mounjaro lawsuits over gastroparesis or stomach paralysis, which can leave users with long-term gastrointestinal side effects

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Earlier this month, Judge Pratter appointed a group of 8 Ozempic MDL lawyers to serve on a plaintiffs’ committee, working directly with the court and attorneys for the drug manufacturers during the coordinated pretrial proceedings.

To help educate Judge Pratter about complex issues that will come up during the litigation, she scheduled a “Science Day” for June 14, 2024, at which time the parties would make educational presentations about the link between Ozempic and gastroparesis, as well as other scientific issues that will come up during the litigation. However, that has now been cancelled.

In a court order (PDF)issued on May 21, Chief Judge Mitchell S. Goldberg of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania vacated the prior scheduling order regarding the science day, indicating that it was canceled pending the reassignment of the MDL to a new judge.

Future of Ozempic Lawsuit MDL

Since the coordinated pretrial proceedings were just getting underway, it is not likely that the reassignment of the Ozempic lawsuit MDL will cause substantial delays in the litigation.

Judge Pratter was expected to establish a bellwether program, where a small group of cases would be prepared for early trial dates to help gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the litigation. However, an order was not yet issued outlining the criteria or timing for making those selections.

After a new MDL judge is selected, it is likely that the parties will want to meet with them to bring them up to speed in the litigation in a status conference. After that, the new MDL judge is likely to continue Judge Pratter’s bellwether program, by working with plaintiffs and defendants to determine what Ozempic lawsuits are representative of the greater litigation, and then sending them through case-specific fact discovery before final scheduling for the first bellwether trials.

Following coordinated discovery and any early bellwether cases, if the parties are unable to negotiate settlements or another resolution for the litigation, the judge assigned to the case may later remand each claim back to the U.S. District Court where it was originally filed for trial.

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