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According to a status report filed in advance of a Court conference call today, there are already more than 2,000 Nexium lawsuits, Prilosec lawsuits, Protonix lawsuits, Prevacid lawsuits and other claims filed against the manufacturers of proton pump inhibitor (PPI) heartburn drugs, each raising similar allegations that users developed severe kidney damage. However, the size and scope of the litigation is expected to rapidly increase over the coming weeks.
The lawsuits allege that critical warnings were withheld from consumers and the medical community about the risk that side effects of PPI drugs may cause users to develop acute kidney injury, chronic kidney disease, renal failure and other injuries.
Given common questions of fact and law raised in complaints filed throughout the federal court system, cases filed in U.S. District Courts nationwide are currently centralized in the District of New Jersey for coordinated pretrial proceedings and discovery before U.S. District Judge Claire C. Cecchi, who is scheduled to speak with lawyers involved in the litigation today.
According to a joint status report (PDF) filed on April 6, there are at least 1,929 claims pending before Judge Cecchi, involving 1,963 different individuals. In addition, another 90 cases have been filed in various state courts nationwide.
Since the two year anniversary of the release of certain studies suggesting a link between Nexium and kidney risks is approaching, it is expected that a large influx of additional cases will be filed over the coming weeks, with the size and scope of the litigation likely doubling or tripling by the end of 2018.
During the status conference today, the Court is expected to discuss a recent proposal that calls for Judge Cecchi to allow the temporary bundling of up to 300 plaintiffs on one lawsuit. The parties are also expected to review the status of a defense fact sheet, proposed discovery search terms, the status of depositions and scheduling orders, as well whether the Court will hold a “Science Day” in the coming months.
Proton Pump Inhibitor Kidney Lawsuits
The proton pump inhibitor litigation has rapidly emerged following the publication of several studies, which suggest that users may face certain kidney risks that are not disclosed on the warning labels for the popular heartburn drugs, which are used by millions of Americans on a daily basis.
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.
Last 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 regarding the link between the heartburn drugs and kidney problems.
In addition, the manufacturers may soon see additional lawsuits over potential links between the heartburn drugs and stomach cancer, after recent studies suggested that long-term use of Nexium, Prilosec or other PPI drugs may make it more likely to develop the disease.