Plaintiffs seeking compensation for kidney injuries they allegedly sustained due to their use of proton pump inhibitors have launched a second bid to centralize all such federal lawsuits in a single U.S. District Court. A Motion filed with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) on June 1st points out that there are now 172 proton pump inhibitor lawsuits pending in federal courts around the country, and asserts that centralization will improve judicial efficiency and better serve the interests of the parties, witnesses and the courts involved in the growing litigation.
A previous attempt was made six months ago to establish a multidistrict litigation for the federal proton pump inhibitor docket. However, at the time only around a dozen cases were pending. In refusing to centralize the lawsuits, the JPML cited the small number of filings, as well as the differing heartburn drugs involved in the litigation and the need to protect trade secrets among the various defendants.
According to the plaintiffs’ motion, several defendants, including AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Wyeth, now support the creation of a multidistrict litigation. Proctor & Gamble has indicated that it would not oppose centralization.
Proton pump inhibitors include prescription and over-the-counter versions of Nexium, Prilosec and Prevacid, among others. More than 15 million Americans used one of these prescription medications in 2013 to treat GERD and other peptic disorders, at a cost of more than $10 billion. In recent years, however, a growing body of research has suggested that long-term proton pump inhibitor use may increase a patient’s risk for chronic kidney disease, renal failure, acute interstitial nephritis, and acute kidney injury.
In January 2016, for example a study that appeared in JAMA: Internal Medicine suggested that patients who took twice-daily doses of proton pump inhibitors were 46% more likely to develop chronic kidney disease. Patients who used the drugs just once per day had a 15% higher risk. The following April, researchers writing in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology reported that patients who use proton pump inhibitors were 96% more likely to develop kidney failure and 28% more likely to suffer chronic kidney disease compared to those who took another class of heartburn medications. The findings also indicated that the overall risk increases with higher doses and longer duration of use.
If the JPML does agree to centralize all federal proton pump inhibitor lawsuits involving kidney complications, all pending cases will be transferred to a single U.S. District Court to undergo coordinated pretrial proceedings, including discovery and motion practice. Plaintiffs have suggested in the U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey, would be an appropriate venue for the proposed multidistrict litigation.