A motion was filed on October 17, 2016, with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation or the MDL Panel to transfer 15 similar federal lawsuits filed and pending in various federal courts across the country, including in California, against various pharmaceutical companies, alleging kidney injury from proton-pump inhibitors, called PPIs, before one federal court for consolidated pretrial proceedings.
What Is Multidistrict Litigation?
The MDL panel consists of seven federal judges who decide whether a group of cases filed in different federal districts should be consolidated in one court before one judge for pretrial proceedings like discovery though document requests, depositions, interrogatories and other similar devices. To be appropriate for consolidation, the cases must have at least one common question of fact. This process prevents duplication, promotes consistency among similar suits, and saves resources of the courts, witnesses, parties and their lawyers.
Why Might these PPI Cases Be Appropriate to Consolidate?
In the PPI motion, six of the plaintiffs jointly request that the panel consolidate the suits alleging kidney injury from dangerous PPI drugs in the U.S District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana in Baton Rouge. The motion also asks that future sufficiently similar cases - which plaintiffs' estimate could be in the thousands, according to their brief in support of the motion - be allowed to later join the coordinated proceedings.
PPIs are medications that treat gastrointestinal problems like reflux, ulcers and esophageal inflammation, severe heartburn and others by reducing gastric acid levels in the stomach. Examples include Nexium, Prilosec, Prevacid and others. The kidney problems alleged to have been caused by PPIs in the suits include acute interstitial nephritis or AIN, end-stage renal disease (renal failure) or ESRD, and chronic kidney disease or CKD.
According to plaintiffs' brief, the 15 cases assert similar legal theories of liability, including:
- Failure to adequately warn patients of the risk of permanent kidney injury
- Defective design
- Fraudulent concealment
- Breach of warranty
- Loss of consortium (harm to a spouse or other close family member or to the relationship between the harmed relative and the victim because of the plaintiff's injury)
The plaintiffs' allege and describe past and present inadequate product labeling for this potential association of PPIs and kidney injuries.
What Do Medical Professionals Say?
The plaintiffs' brief outlines a history of medical evidence of kidney injury associated with PPIs beginning with University of Arizona research findings in 1992 and continuing. Two studies implicating the association of serious kidney disease with PPIs have already been published in 2016 in respected medical journals.
For example, the most recent is a study by researchers from Yale and the VA Medical Center in West Haven, Connecticut, in the Journal of Nephrology. This article provides a thorough, detailed review of the history of research showing association between taking PPIs and developing AIN, anywhere from a week to nine months after starting PPIs. AIN can lead to CKD and ESRD. The article also describes evidence that even after stopping PPI and undergoing treatment for AIN, a patient's kidney injury may not heal completely.
The other 2016 study, published in the JAMA, found that PPI use was associated with a 20 to 50 percent higher risk of CKD.
We will watch with interest whether the MDL Panel approves the request to consolidate these important cases. Anyone with kidney disease who took PPIs (or who has been injured from any medication) should speak with an attorney as soon as possible.
With four western U.S. offices, the lawyers of Brayton Purcell LLP represent clients who have been injured by defective or dangerous drugs. Contact us by calling 1-800-598-0314, or fill out our contact form.