Sunday, April 5, 2015 - Oral arguments were made in late March to the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation concerning requests to consolidate lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies Daiichi Sankyo and Forest Laboratories for complications with their drug Benicar. The motion to consolidate was filed in December of 2014, and statements over whether consolidation is necessary for the Benicar lawsuits have been supportive from the plaintiffs and dismissed by the defense.
The plaintiffs claim that taking Benicar brought on gastrointestinal problems including an inflammation of the intestine commonly referred to as enteropathy. The drug is intended to help patients struggling with high blood pressure, and has secondary applications in assisting with strokes and heart attacks. The intestinal problems are manifested in chronic diarrhea, which can lead to considerable weight loss and serious intestinal injuries.
The lawsuits against Daiichi Sankyo and Forest Laboratories claim that the companies did not adequately warn the plaintiffs of the possible repercussions associated with their blood pressure drug and were negligent in failing to provide the necessary facts that may have protected those affected.
A number of cases have even found plaintiffs diagnosed with Celiac disease as a result of the side effects endured after taking Benicar, which has the possibility to prompt treatments that can further damage a patient‘s intestinal tract. Repeated medical attention for those taking the drug has also been necessary as physicians were not aware of Benicar‘s link to intestinal issues.
The active ingredient at issue in the medication is called olmesartan and is reportedly linked to the sprue-like enteropathy that plaintiffs claim is the root of their medical complications. While much of the diarrhetic issues do subdue after the use of Benicar subsides, permanent damage can still take place as a result of long-term use of Benicar. The onset of symptoms could allegedly take anywhere from weeks to months to surface.
While plaintiffs are fighting to consolidate the lawsuits, there has been pushback from both Daiichi Sankyo and Forest Laboratories. The defendants claim that the progress already made on current Benicar cases has progressed to a point that consolidating the lawsuits would hamper the efficiency of an eventual resolution to the claims.
Plaintiffs in the case conversely claim that not only will a transfer of the lawsuits into multidistrict litigation help disparate cases coordinate and prevent duplicate discovery, but that many lawsuits are yet to join the current class and an MDL would better handle the projected influx of new claims against the defendants. Thus far, there are 23 pending lawsuits against Daiichi Sankyo and Forest Laboratories in 12 U.S. District Courts.
The FDA contacted both Forest Laboratories and Benicar in July of 2013 with requests for the companies to update their warning labels after discovering links between the drug and diarrhetic symptoms. The drug had been available since the mid-2000‘s, however no attempt at a recall had been made before the FDA report. In addition to the FDA, the Mayo Clinic and the medical journal Digestive and Liver Disease published articles detailing the ill-affects of Benicar for intestinal health.
A decision has yet to come from the JPML, though one is expected in the near future.