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“Science Day” Scheduled for Kidney Injury Lawsuits Over Nexium, Prilosec, Other PPI

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To better understand the scientific and medical issues likely to arise in Nexium lawsuits, Prilosec lawsuits, Prevacid lawsuits and other claims filed against the makers of similar proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), the U.S. District Judge presiding over the mounting litigation has scheduled a “Science Day” in May, at which time the parties will make non-adversarial presentations that are designed to educate the Court. 

Hundreds of complaints have been filed by former users of the popular heartburn and acid reflux drugs, each raising similar allegations that the manufacturers failed to provide adequate warnings for consumers and the medical community about the potential side effects, which have been linked to reports of acute kidney injury, chronic kidney disease, renal failure or other complications.

Given the similar questions of fact and law raised in the litigation, cases filed throughout the federal court system have been centralized before U.S. District Judge Claire C. Cecchi, who is coordinating discovery and pretrial proceedings in the District of New Jersey.

In a case management order (PDF) issued on January 30, Judge Cecchi announced that a “Science Day” will be held on May 16, calling for the parties to be prepared to discussed the parameters of the presentations at a status conference slated for February 22.

It is common for Courts to schedule such scientific presentations in complex product liability litigation, where a large number of claims have been brought alleging that individuals suffered similar injuries or medical issues as a result of the same product. Such “Science Days” are designed to allow the parties to explain issues that will come up in a case in a non-adversarial setting, which are typically not on the record or subject to cross-examination.

Proton Pump Inhibitor Kidney Risks

The proton pump inhibitor (PPI) litigation has rapidly emerged following the publication of several studies in recent years, 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.

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