Heartburn is a problem faced by countless Americans, and pharmaceutical companies have taken note. There is a glut of heartburn drugs in the market for both prescription and over-the-counter use.
One such drug, Nexium, may be on the proverbial chopping block when it comes to class-action lawsuits. It is part of a class of medications known as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) that have all been receiving increased scrutiny in recent years. Nexium is often prescribed for:
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Zollinger-Ellison syndrome
- Erosive esophagitis
Despite its effectiveness at treating these ailments, Nexium and other PPIs have come under fire for having dangerous side effects from long-term use, including causing serious kidney problems. Some even suggest that Nexium’s manufacturer, AstraZeneca, knew about these associated kidney issues and neglected to put a warning on the label. So, does that mean Nexium is due for a class-action lawsuit?
History of Nexium Issues
AstraZeneca began selling Nexium (esomeprazole) in 2001. Some have suggested that the pharmaceutical company created the drug specifically because their patent on Prilosec (a similar heartburn drug) was going to run out in 2002. With Nexium, AstraZeneca could maintain a hold in the highly lucrative heartburn market.
When it was first released, Nexium warned consumers about a collection of fairly standard side effects including nausea, gas, dizziness, diarrhea and others. But in 2010, studies began to surface identifying a higher risk of spine, wrist and hip fractures in individuals who regularly took Nexium. Despite this, the FDA did not mandate the addition of another safety warning.
In 2016, two major studies, including one in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, came out that showed a link between prolonged use of Nexium and a higher rate of chronic kidney disease. In fact, patients who had been taking Nexium or other PPIs for more than two years were shown to have had up to a 50% higher risk of developing kidney troubles. Other kidney issues, like acute interstitial nephritis, have also been reported after prolonged Nexium use.
Since then, more studies have shown links between Nexium and several other major medical conditions. These include:
- Stomach cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Heart attack
Despite these risks, tens of millions of Americans take Nexium and other PPIs on a regular basis. Doctors, perhaps problematically, consider the drug relatively safe, but, as these studies continue to show, Nexium may have more issues than originally thought.
Are There Nexium Lawsuits?
Because of all the problems with Nexium, it’s fair to assume that lawsuits abound. In fact, there are over 4,600 cases pending as of July 2018. The first lawsuits were filed in May 2016, soon after the release of the reports linking Nexium and other PPIs to chronic kidney disease.
In February 2017, the first attempt to combine cases into a multidistrict litigation (MDL) case was made. Although that initial request was denied, a judicial panel reconsidered the issue in July 2017. The following month, the panel approved the request to create an MDL in New Jersey federal court.
At that time, the number of cases was at a mere 160. Now, of course, over 4,600 suits have been filed, all of which claim some sort of kidney damage created by Nexium and other PPIs. The cases also claim that AstraZeneca knew about Nexium’s link to kidney problems.
The judge in the MDL case has scheduled the first bellwether trial for September 21, 2020. No other decisions have been made in any Nexium- or PPI-related cases, and this trial will obviously be a first.
AstraZeneca has denied any culpability and insists that the drugs they manufacture are safe. But, it does appear that Nexium and its PPI cohorts are on the way to class-action suit within the next two years.