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Direct Filing of Lawsuits Over Nexium, Prilosec, Other PPI Drugs Permitted in Federal MDL

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The U.S. District Judge appointed to preside over all federal Nexium lawsuitsPrilosec lawsuitsPrevacid lawsuits and other complaints involving kidney problems associated with proton pump inhibitors (PPI) drugs, has recently approved new procedures that will allow the direct filing of new cases into the recently established multidistrict litigation (MDL). 

Hundreds of complaints brought by former users of the popular heartburn and acid reflux drugs in U.S. District Courts nationwide have been transferred to the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, where Judge Claire C. Cecchi is coordinating the discovery and pretrial proceedings.

The litigation has rapidly emerged following the publication of several studies over the past two years, which indicate users may face an increased risk of acute kidney injury, chronic kidney disease, kidney failure and other renal problems. According to allegations raised in the lawsuits, pharmaceutical companies have provided false and misleading information about the potential side effects of PPI drugs for years.

Given the popularity of the medications, it is expected that thousands of additional cases are likely to be filed in the coming months and years. Therefore, Judge Cecchi has authorized the direct filing of future lawsuits in the MDL, which will avoid the delays associated with transferring claims from various district courts nationwide and standardize allegations raised in each case.

In a case management order (PDF) issued on January 17, Judge Cecchi directed the Plaintiffs Steering Committee to file a Master Complaint within two weeks, which will outline all of the allegations against the manufacturers of the heartburn drugs. A Short Form Complaint will then be developed, where each individual plaintiff may adopt certain claims against the manufacturers that can then be directly filed in the MDL.

Proton Pump Inhibitor Kidney Risks

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.

Earlier this year, 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 part of the MDL proceedings, it is expected that Judge Cecchi will eventually establish a “bellwether” program, where small groups of cases against each drug maker will be prepared for early trial dates. While the outcomes of such trials are not binding on other plaintiffs, they are designed to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the litigation.

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