Lawsuits involving Proton Pump Inhibitors

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Researcher: Ariana Arce​

Researcher: Ariana Arce​

Journalist: Aaron Vivanco

Journalist: Aaron Vivanco

Editor: Daniela Polo

Editor: Daniela Polo

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Lawsuits involving Proton Pump Inhibitors

Numerous lawsuits have been filed nationwide by individuals who claim that PPI medications such as Nexium and Prilosec led to irreversible kidney damage, loss of kidney function, bone fractures, and interstitial nephritis. Currently, more than 13,000 cases are pending in a class action multidistrict litigation (MDL) as of June 2023, with rumors of a potential settlement in this legal dispute.

A woman in white dress suffering from acid reflux in need for a Proton Pump inhibitor.

The lawsuits claim that drug companies knew about potential side effects and risks associated with their products but failed to provide sufficient warning to patients and medical professionals. Legal cases related to Prilosec (a kind of PPI) indicate that AstraZeneca may have been aware of potential kidney risks for a decade before issuing a public warning.

What are Proton Pump Inhibitors?

Proton pump inhibitors were developed in the late 1980s and are utilized to treat upper gastrointestinal tract disorders, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), peptic ulcers, Zollinger–Ellison syndrome, and prevent gastrointestinal adverse events caused by nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and aspirin. Additionally, they are combined with antibiotics to eradicate Helicobacter pylori, which, combined with acid, causes stomach and duodenal ulcers.

Prescription PPIs have been shown to effectively decrease the acid production in the stomach lining, aiding in the prevention and treatment of esophageal, stomach, or duodenal ulcers.

PPIs are commonly used in the United States and are available over the counter or by prescription. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey shows an increasing PPI usage among both genders from 1999–2000 to 2011–2013. The survey indicated that approximately 14.9 million individuals were prescribed 157 million PPIs in 2012.

Can PPIs cause chronic kidney disease?

Recent medical research suggests a correlation between long-term use of PPIs like Prilosec, Prevacid, and Nexium and increased risk of the following kidney diseases:

  • Acute interstitial nephritis (AIN)
  • Acute kidney injury (AKI)
  • Acute kidney failure
  • Chronic kidney disease (CKD)
  • End-stage renal failure

The manufacturers of these heartburn medications have not provided sufficient warnings to consumers regarding potential health hazards. Several lawsuits have been filed by individuals who have been harmed by PPI use. They assert that if there had been adequate warnings of the risks associated with PPIs, they could have opted for a different medication to address their stomach-acid health issues.

Acute Kidney injury can be a product of PPI use

Acute kidney injury (AKI) is characterized by sudden onset, whereas chronic kidney conditions develop over time. Kidney failure can suddenly occur with little to no warning.

This condition can be serious and may require intensive care treatment. PPIs have been associated with the potential risk of acute kidney damage.

PPI-induced acute interstitial nephritis

One of the dangerous side effects of PPI use for a prolonged period is the inflammation in the spaces between kidney cells, known as Acute Interstitial Nephritis (AIN). The injury severity is correlated with age, with those aged >60 years experiencing a more profound effect. Some recovered; however, the majority of cases will experience a permanent loss of kidney function. In severe cases, a kidney transplant may be necessary.

AIN can be acute (sudden) or chronic (long-term).

According to a study published in the journal Nephrology, Dialysis, and Transplantation in 2004, interstitial nephritis was found to be commonly associated with Prilosec (omeprazole) and Prevacid (lansoprazole) use.

Lawsuits filed against PPI manufacturers

There have been numerous Proton Pump Inhibitor lawsuits filed against the manufacturers of these dangerous drugs, accusing them of not properly warning consumers and the medical community of the potential risks associated with heartburn drugs. Lawsuits specifically targeting Prilosec allege that AstraZeneca knew the kidney risks associated with PPIs for at least 10 years before informing the public.

Is there an MDL for PPI lawsuits?

Multidistrict litigation (MDL) has been established in the US District Court for New Jersey, under the jurisdiction of Judge Claire C. Cecchi, to address thousands of lawsuits filed by plaintiffs against drug companies responsible for PPI drugs. These lawsuits are related to kidney damage, specifically AIN, and acute renal failure, which have been associated with PPI use.

PPI lawsuits mention the following conditions:

  • Kidney disease
  • Kidney injury
  • Kidney failure
  • AIN

PPI makers named in the MDL

Several pharmaceutical companies in the United States are engaged in the production, manufacturing, and promotion of PPIs. The New Jersey District Court MDL has identified the following several defendants:

  • AstraZeneca
  • Proctor & Gamble
  • Takeda Pharmaceuticals
  • Merck
  • Wyeth
  • Pfizer

These companies have faced accusations of promoting faulty medication without informing customers about potential health hazards.

Current status of the PPI class action MDL

The first bellwether test trial in the PPI MDL is that of James Rieder who took Nexium, which is not yet concluded as of June 2023. The trial was initially scheduled for June 5, 2023; however, the date has been rescheduled multiple times by the judge.

To date, no global settlements or jury verdicts have not been reached in the MDL, which primarily consists of lawsuits regarding Prilosec and Nexium, as well as a smaller number of claims related to Prevacid.

Can I qualify for a PPI lawsuit?

Patients administered with PPIs, such as Nexium, Prilosec, Dexilant, Prevacid, or Protonix, for at least 12 months and have been diagnosed with kidney damage or CKD may have legal options through a PPI lawsuit.

Furthermore, individuals who have experienced kidney damage or have been diagnosed with CKD or kidney failure due to long-term use of defective drugs may be eligible for financial compensation.

Possible settlements for a PPI lawsuit

After reviewing previous cases of kidney damage or failure associated with PPI use, we estimate that the top tier of settlements could range from $100,000 to $150,000, with the majority of cases involving kidney failure. The value of second-tier cases ranges from $60,000 to $90,000, whereas the lowest-tier cases are valued at $20,000 to $50,000.

Nevertheless, the potential settlement value of PPI lawsuits linked to kidney damage cannot be determined at this time as no settlements or verdicts have been reported. The projected settlement amounts for Nexium are comparable to those of other PPI medications, such as Prilosec.Despite ongoing lawsuits on PPI-related kidney damage, the opportunity to take legal action and file a lawsuit remains open. Contact our legal experts if you think this is your case or know someone who has suffered from PPI side effects.