Proton Pump Inhibitor Lawsuits Continue, Despite Ruling Against Centralization

Published on February 2, 2017 by Sandy Liebhard

A Panel of federal judges has declined a request seeking centralization of all federally-filed lawsuits involving the alleged potential for proton pump inhibitors to cause kidney failure and other renal injuries. In a decision issued today, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) cited a number of factors that they said “undercut the case for centralization.”

Despite the JPML’s denial, currently pending cases will continue to move forward, and it’s likely that additional proton pump inhibitor lawsuits will be filed in the coming months. Plaintiffs may also make a new bid for centralization in the future if attorneys believe they can overcome the Panel’s objections.

Panel Cites Discovery Requirements, Need for Trade Secret Protection

Court documents indicate that around 100 lawsuits have been filed in various federal courts on behalf of individuals who allegedly suffered serious kidney complications due to Nexium and other proton pump inhibitors. Last year, a group of plaintiffs motioned the JPML for centralization of the federal docket in the U.S District Court, Middle District of Louisiana, among other locations. At the time, there were just 15 proton pump inhibitor lawsuits pending throughout the federal court system.

In declining to grant the plaintiffs’ Motion, the JPML noted that while all of the drugs named in the various lawsuits shared certain similarities, a great deal of discovery would likely be defendant specific. The Panel added that the variety of injuries alleged significantly undermines any efficiency that could be achieved by centralization. They also noted that all of the defendants are competitors, and expressed concern that the need to protect confidential and trade secret information would complicate case management.

Finally, the Panel pointed out that, even though plaintiffs all but promised the litigation would eventually involve hundreds or thousands of cases, their Motion for Transfer only encompassed a mere 15  proton pump inhibitor lawsuits and 24 tag-along actions.

“The Panel previously has been disinclined to take into account the mere possibility of future filings in its centralization calculus,” the Order concluded. “Such caution is warranted here, given that the first PPI came to market more than two decades ago and the drugs have been taken by millions of Americans.”

Lawyers Representing Proton Pump Inhibitor Plaintiffs

The proton pump inhibitor litigation began to grow last year, after a number of studies suggested that long-term use of the drugs could increase an individual’s risk for kidney failure, chronic kidney disease, acute interstitial nephritis and acute kidney injury. Plaintiffs claim the manufacturers of Nexium, Prilosec, PrevAcid and other drugs in the class concealed data suggesting their products could harm the kidney. The drug makers are also accused of failing to provide appropriate safety warnings to doctors and patients.

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