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Plaintiffs Seek Consolidation of PPI Lawsuits

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A group of plaintiffs who filed lawsuits because of injuries caused by proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) have filed a motion seeking consolidation of all of these lawsuits into one federal court.

PPIs are a class of medications that can block the production of stomach acid. Examples include Nexium and Prilosec. The FDA has approved them for the treatment of conditions like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), stomach ulcers, and esophagitis.

Studies have linked these drugs to potentially dangerous side effects, including kidney injury, kidney failure, and chronic kidney disease. Long-term use, in particular, may significantly increase the risks of these sorts of complications.

Plaintiffs Request Consolidation of Federally Filed PPI Lawsuits

The motion was filed on October 17, 2016. Plaintiffs in six of the fifteen actions pending in 12 different U.S. District Courts have asked the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) to transfer all federally filed PPI lawsuits to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana for coordinated proceedings.

The cases identified in the motion are currently pending in California, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia. All involve patients who were treated with a PPI drug for gastric acid-related conditions, and subsequently suffered from kidney problems, including acute interstitial nephritis (AIN), chronic kidney disease (CKD), and renal failure, also called end-stage renal disease.

Plaintiffs’ counsel estimates that there may be thousands more PPI lawsuits filed in the future, and that consolidation would promote the just and efficient resolution of the actions. Plaintiffs also believe that all the cases involve one or more common questions of fact, and that consolidation would be more convenient for both parties and their witnesses.

Plaintiffs Make Their Case for a PPI MDL

The plaintiffs assert in their motion that, the defendants, have widely advertised and promoted these drugs for the prevention and treatment of gastric acid-related conditions, but were aware as early as 1992 of potential side effects, including increased the risk of kidney injuries.

In a 2007 study, researchers from the Yale School of Medicine conducted a case series and concluded that PPI use left most patients “with some level of chronic kidney disease.”

In 2011, consumer advocacy group Public Citizen petitioned the FDA to add black box warnings concerning several risks associated with PPIs, including AIN. In October 2014, the FDA required consistent labeling on all prescription PPIs, including verbiage about the AIN risk. Plaintiffs contend that the information about AINS was inadequate to warn of the true nature of the drug risks.

There still remains no warning on these drugs about CKD, however, despite the fact that several studies have found a connection. In January 2016, for example, researchers reported that PPI use was independently associated with a 20-50 percent higher risk of CKD.

Why Louisiana?

The plaintiffs request the Middle District of Louisiana because it is “easily accessible to all counsel and witnesses,” and because it has the resources available to manage the MDL. There are currently no pending MDLs in the court, yet there are several judges with the right skills and experience to “steer this complex litigation on a prudent course.”

Only one of the cases named in the motion is currently pending in Louisiana.

Should the panel decide against the Middle District of Louisiana, the plaintiffs have asked the JPML to consider the District of New Jersey, the District of Kansas, and the Western District of Louisiana as alternative venues.