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A growing number of product liability lawsuits are being filed over kidney damage from Nexium, Prilosec, Prevacid and similar heartburn drugs, with recent court records showing that more than 500 cases are now pending in state and federal courts nationwide.
The popular medications are all part of a widely used class of drugs known as proton pump inhibitors, which are taken regularly by millions of Americans to treat symptoms of heartburn, acid reflux, ulcers and other gastrointestinal problems.
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 Nexium lawsuits, Prilosec lawsuits, Prevacid lawsuits and claims over other PPI drugs, the manufacturers have provided false and misleading information about the safety of the drugs for years.
Given similar questions of fact and law raised in complaints filed in U.S. District Courts nationwide, the federal litigation has been centralized before U.S. District Judge Claire C. Cecchi in the District of New Jersey, as part of an MDL, or Multidistrict Litigation.
According to a status report (PDF) filed by the parties on December 14, there are currently at least 370 lawsuits pending in the federal court system, with another 127 complaints filed in Delaware Superior Court and one case filed in Missouri Circuit Court that involves 28 different plaintiffs.
Earlier this week, the parties involved in the federal litigation met with Judge Cecci to discuss various pretrial and discovery matters, including issues with the Plaintiff Fact Sheet, pending deadlines, and the scheduling of a Science Day.
In complex pharmaceutical litigation, it is common for the court to schedule such scientific presentations to provide the judge with background information on the underlying issues that will come up in the case. Known as “Science Days”, the informational presentations are made by each side in a non-adversarial setting, which is typically not on the record or subject to cross-examination.
As part of the coordinated pretrial proceedings in the MDL, it is expected that Judge Cecci 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
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 heartburn drug injury lawyers continue to review and file cases, it is ultimately expected that thousands of kidney injury cases may be filed in the coming months and years.