Proton Pump Inhibitor (PPI) Bellwether Trials to Begin in September 2020

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With thousands of Nexium lawsuits, Prilosec lawsuits, Prevacid lawsuits and other claims over kidney injuries associated with popular heartburn drugs being pursued in the federal court system, the U.S. District Judge presiding over the litigation indicates that the first “bellwether” trial will start in September 2020. 

There are currently about 4,500 product liability lawsuits pending against the manufacturers of proton pump inhibitor (PPI) drugs, each raising similar allegations that users and the medical community were not adequately warned that users may be more likely to develop an acute kidney injury, chronic kidney disease, renal failure and other serious side effects.

Given common questions of fact and law raised in cases, the federal litigation has been centralized before U.S. District Judge Claire C. Cecchi in the District of New Jersey, for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings, as part of a multidistrict litigation (MDL).

In a case management order (PDF) issued on June 20, Judge Cecchi indicated that the first proton pump inhibitor trial will begin on September 21, 2020, which will be used as a “bellwether” to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout a number of cases.

By June 28, the parties have been directed to submit an agreed-to Scheduling Order for this trial, which should reflect agreements and court directives discussed during a recent case management conference held on June 12. At that time, the parties agreed to limits on discovery and reported reaching an agreement on a Defendant Fact Sheet.

The next status conference in the proton pump inhibitor litigation is set for July 24, with parties required to submit a joint status report for the conference by July 20.

Proton Pump Inhibitor Kidney Lawsuits

The proton pump inhibitor lawsuits began to rapidly emerged following the publication of several studies in recent years, which suggested that users may face certain kidney risks that are not disclosed on the warning labels for the popular heartburn drugs.

In December 2014, the FDA required new warnings for the first time about a form of kidney damage associated with proton pump inhibitors, known as acute interstitial nephritis (AIN), which involves a sudden inflammation of the kidneys, which can lead to more severe problems.

More recent studies have highlighted the potential link between Nexium and kidney problems, suggesting that the popular drugs make also cause users to experience acute kidney injury, chronic kidney disease and end-stage kidney failure, often resulting in the need for dialysis treatment or a kidney transplant.

In January 2016, a study published in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine also found an increased risk of chronic kidney disease with the heartburn medications, indicating that users of Nexium, Prilosec and other PPI may be 50% more likely when compared to non-users.

These findings were supported by another study published in April 2016, in which researchers with the Department of Veterans Affairs found that users of Nexium, Prilosec or other PPIs may be 96% more likely to develop kidney failure and 28% more likely to develop chronic kidney disease after five years of use.

As lawyers continue to review and file cases over the coming months, it is widely expected that more than 10,000 cases may be filed nationwide. In addition, amid recent studies suggesting a link between stomach cancer and Nexium, Prilosec and other PPI drugs, it is possible that the scope of the litigation may expand to cover additional injuries associated with the medication.

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