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The U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal Nexium lawsuits, Prilosec lawsuits and other complaints involving kidney problems linked to proton pump inhibitor (PPI) heartburn drugs has scheduled the first “bellwether” trial to begin on November 15, 2021.
There are currently about 13,000 claims pending against against the makers of Nexium, Prilosec, Prevacid, Protonix and other PPI drugs, each raising similar allegations that the users and the medical community were not adequately warned that the widely used heartburn medications may increase the risk of chronic kidney disease, acute kidney injury, kidney failure and other side effects.
Given common questions of fact and law raided in complaints brought throughout the federal court system, coordinated pretrial proceedings have been established before U.S. District Judge Claire C. Cecchi in New Jersey, as part of a multidistrict litigation (MDL).
The process is designed to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues that are being raised in the cases, and will include a series of early “bellwether” trials, which are designed to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain testimony and evidence that is likely to be repeated throughout the litigation.
In a case management order (PDF) issued on January 10, Judge Cecchi announced that the first of six bellwether trials will begin in November 2021, which may have a substantial impact on the amount of compensation the drug makers may have to pay to resolve the litigation.
Late last year, the parties were ordered to select 20 representative cases for a discovery pool, which will be reduced down to a group of six claims that will be eligible for early trial dates in the MDL.
Nexium, Prilosec Kidney Problems
The proton pump inhibitor litigation first emerged several years ago, following the publication of studies that suggested users may face certain kidney risks that were not disclosed on the warning labels for popular heartburn drugs, including Nexium, Prilosec, Protonix, Prevacid and other medications.
The FDA required new warnings about potential kidney risks for the first time in December 2014, indicating that use of the drugs may increase the risk of a form of kidney damage known as acute interstitial nephritis (AIN), which involves a sudden inflammation of the kidneys, which can lead to more severe problems. However, plaintiffs maintain this warning remains inadequate and vague, failing to mention the drugs may cause an acute kidney injury, chronic kidney disease or kidney failure.
In January 2016, an independent study published in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine found an increased risk of chronic kidney disease with the heartburn medications, indicating users of Nexium, Prilosec and other PPI may be 50% more likely when compared to non-users.
These findings were followed 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 consumers have learned about a link between their heartburn drug and kidney problems suffered in recent years, a rapidly growing number of lawsuits have been filed throughout the federal court system.
While the outcome of the early bellwether trials before Judge Cecchi will not be binding on other Nexium and Prilosec cases pending in the litigation, they will be closely watched and may have a big influence on any eventual settlement negotiations, which would be necessary to avoid thousands of individual cases being set for separate trial dates nationwide in the coming years.