For the second time this year, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) will consider a motion to consolidate all federally-filed product liability claims involving proton pump inhibitors and kidney complications in a single U.S. District Court. Oral arguments on the motion will be heard next Thursday, during the JPML’s July 27th Hearing Session in Los Angeles, California.
Proton pump inhibitors, which include prescription and over-the-counter versions of Nexium, Prilosec and PrevAcid, are used by millions of people throughout the world to treat GERD and other digestive problems related to the excess production of gastric acid. However, several recent studies have suggested that people who take proton pump inhibitors for an extended period of time may be more likely to develop chronic kidney failure, kidney disease, acute interstitial nephritis and acute kidney injury.
According to a Motion for Transfer filed with the JPML in June, around 172 proton inhibitor lawsuits were pending in 31 different federal courts against the manufacturers of Nexium, Prilosec, PrevAcid, Protonix and Dexilent. All of the complaints similarly allege that long-term use of the medications caused plaintiffs to suffer serious renal complications. Defendants are accused of failing to warn consumers that proton pump inhibitors can harm the kidneys. The motion assert that centralization of federal will serve the interest of all parties and improve judicial efficiency.
“The scattered nature of the Actions across the country does not serve either the parties’ or judicial efficiency interests, and will inevitably lead to disparate decisions and outcomes,” the June 1st Motion states “Indeed, to date, there have been more than sixteen court conferences, forty motions filed (excluding pro hac vice motions), and countless meet-and confers have taken place to address largely duplicative issues.”
The JPML refused a previous request to centralize federal proton pump inhibitor lawsuits in February. In doing so, the Panel noted that only 15 cases were pending across the federal court system, and expressed concern about several issues, including the need to protect trade secrets among numerous defendants. None of those defendants were in favor of centralization at the time.
The docket has grown significantly since February. According to the plaintiffs’ latest motion, AstraZeneca (Nexium and Prilosec) and Pfizer (Protonix) now support the creation of a multidistrict litigation. Proctor & Gamble (Nexium 24 Hour, Prilosec OTC) has indicated that it would not oppose centralization.