The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) will hear oral arguments on a new proposal to centralize all proton pump inhibitor lawsuits filed over drugs’ alleged association with serious kidney complications at its upcoming Hearing Session in Los Angeles, California. The session will be convened July 27th, beginning at 9:00 a.m., PST.
The manufacturers of Nexium and other proton pump inhibitors have been named defendants in more than 170 product liability claims, all which were filed on behalf of individuals who allegedly developed kidney failure and other renal complications due to long-term treatment with the popular heartburn drugs. Plaintiffs claim that the drugs’ manufacturers have long been aware that proton pump inhibitors could potentially harm the kidneys, yet failed to issue appropriate warnings to the public. They further assert that their renal injuries could have been avoided had proper warnings been furnished to consumers and the medical community.
Nexium and other proton pump inhibitors are extremely popular. In 2013, prescription versions were used by more than 15 million Americans. However, some estimate that between 25% and 70% of these prescriptions are inappropriate, raising concerns that proton pump inhibitors are overused. Several recent studies have also suggested that long-term treatment with proton pump inhibitors may be associated with an increased risk of kidney failure, chronic kidney disease, acute interstitial nephritis and acute kidney injury.
This is the second-time plaintiffs have attempted to centralize the federal proton pump inhibitor docket. Six months ago, the JPML denied their first request, citing 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. At the time, the federal docket consisted of just 15 proton pump inhibitor lawsuits.
Plaintiffs’ latest motion, filed with the JPML on June 1st, points out that the proton pump inhibitor litigation has grown to include at least 172 federal filings. They contend that centralization of the claims in a single federal court will improve judicial efficiency and better serve the interests of the parties, witnesses and the courts involved in the growing litigation. The motion also noted that 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.
If the JPML does agree to centralize the federal proton pump inhibitor docket, all pending kidney injury claims 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.