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Status Conference Scheduled for Januvia and Byetta Lawsuits

In August 2013, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) decided to consolidate all products liability claims brought in federal courts nationwide involving incretin mimetics – a controversial class of diabetes drugs that have been linked to pancreatitis and cancer of the pancreas. The multidistrict litigation (MDL) was formed to help streamline pretrial proceedings, conserve judicial resources, and allow claimants share in the discovery process, while preserving the individual status of their claims.

Following the coordination of qualifying Januvia and Byetta lawsuits in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, the presiding judge ordered the first status conference in the MDL, asking attorneys to convene on October 17th. Judge Anthony J. Battaglia scheduled the conference to discuss the appointment of lead and liaison counsel for the plaintiffs and defendants, to aid the MDL court in communicating with parties and facilitating management of the litigation.

Januvia and Byetta lawsuits allege pancreatic cancer risks not warned about

In addition to Byetta and Januvia claims, plaintiffs have also filed lawsuits over injuries sustained by other incretin mimetics, including Janumet and Victoza – all of which have been centralized in California federal court as IN RE: Incretin Mimetics Products Liability Litigation, before Judge Battaglia.

The JPML decided to coordinate lawsuits against various manufacturers of the diabetes drugs, as many of the plaintiffs were prescribed a combination of the medications to treat their high blood sugar levels. Incretin mimetics, which have been on U.S. markets since 2005, have been associated with a higher risk of life-threatening side effects, including renal failure and acute pancreatitis. But the most serious reported side effect linked to incretin mimetics is a higher risk of pancreatic cancer – an invasive form of the disease that carries one of the lowest survival rates.

Patients who have pursued a Januvia cancer lawsuit argue that Merck Sharp and Dohme Corporation failed to adequately test its medication and failed to warn consumers and their physicians of cancer risks.

Since March of 2013, the number of incretin mimetic products liability lawsuits has risen steadily, ever since the FDA announced an investigation of the drugs’ safety, following research that demonstrated evidence of precancerous cells in the pancreas of individuals who were exposed to Byetta, Januvia and/or Victoza. While the agency later concluded that they found no solid evidence linking incretin mimetics like Januvia with pancreatic cancer, the number of lawsuits continues to mount along with adverse event reports.

Incretin mimetics MDL expected to grow

When the JPML was petitioned to establish the incretin mimetics MDL, there were only around 50 Januvia and Byetta pancreatic cancer lawsuits pending in court rooms. This figure is expected to swell substantially over the coming months, as more awareness and clinical studies on incretin mimetic side effects and risks comes to light. Complaints that have been lodged in district courts and contain similar allegations or common issues of fact regarding Januvia side effects may be removed to MDL for pretrial proceedings. Some legal analysts predict that thousands of incretin mimetic lawsuits will be filed by patients or family members who lost a loved one to pancreatic cancer.

A plaintiffs’ steering committee (PSC) and lead or liaison counsel will take certain measures on behalf of all claimants in the MDL. Judge Battaglia states that a timeline for selecting these leadership roles will be addressed during the status conference on October 17.