Federal Court Overseeing Proton Pump Inhibitor Kidney Injury Lawsuits Nixes Proposal for 2-Phase Litigation

Published on May 24, 2018 by Laurie Villanueva

The federal court overseeing thousands of kidney injury lawsuits filed against the manufacturers of Nexium, Prilosec and other proton pump inhibitors has rejected a defense bid to split the litigation into two phases.

There are currently more than 4,200 proton pump inhibitor lawsuits pending in the U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey, all of which were filed on behalf of individuals who developed kidney failure and other renal complications allegedly related to their long-term use of Nexium, Prilosec, PrevAcid, Protonix and Dexilant.

Are of the cases are part of a single multidistrict litigation and are currently undergoing coordinated discovery and other pretrial proceedings.

Proton Pump Inhibitor Plaintiffs Opposed Bifurcated Proceedings

Plaintiffs and defendants each recently submitted proposals setting forth a plan for the litigation’s progress. The defendants sought a bifurcated proceeding in which the court would first address  motions to dismiss on the basis of federal preemption and whether the heartburn drugs generally pose an increased risk of kidney injury.

Plaintiffs opposed bifurcation and instead proposed a bellwether trial program in which a few representative cases would go before juries. While verdicts in the bellwether trials would not be binding on other proton pump inhibitor lawsuits, they could provide insight into how other juries might rule in other proton pump inhibitor lawsuits.

The judge overseeing the proton pump inhibitor litigation rejected the defendants’ proposal for a two-phase litigation in a Case Management Order dated May 18th.  No explanation for the decision was given.

Proton Pump Inhibitor Lawsuit Allegations

Plaintiffs pursuing proton pump inhibitor lawsuits in the District of New Jersey assert that the drugs’ manufacturers have long concealed data linking the medications to serious renal side effects, including:

  • Kidney failure
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Acute interstitial nephritis
  • Acute kidney injury

The complaints also cite multiple studies which suggest that long-term proton pump inhibitor users are more likely to develop serious kidney complications:

  • A paper published by CMAJ Open in April 2015 that linked proton pump inhibitors to a 3-fold increase in the risk for acute interstitial nephritis, as well as a 2.5 times higher risk of acute kidney injury.
  • Research published in JAMA Internal Medicine in January 2016 which suggested that proton pump inhibitors might increase the risk of chronic kidney disease by as much as 50%.
  • A paper appearing in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology in April 2016 that reported that long-term users of proton pump inhibitors may be 96% more likely to develop kidney failure and 28% more likely to develop chronic kidney disease compared to patients using H2-blockers.

And while the drugs’ labels were updated in December 2014 to include a brief mention of acute interstitial nephritis, the labels include no other information about potential kidney complications.

Plaintiffs further assert that they could have avoided their kidney injuries had proton pump manufacturers provided doctors and patients with adequate warnings of these risks.

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