Fayette County

Why dozens of lawsuits against diabetes drug are coming to Lexington

Dozens of lawsuits filed across the country against a diabetes drug have been transferred to U.S. District Court in Lexington.

More than 80 product-liability suits — 14 from New Jersey alone — have been transferred to U.S. District Judge Karen Caldwell’s oversight since Feb. 12. Two cases originated in Kentucky, which, according to the Center for Disease Control, has the fourth highest diabetes mortality rate in the nation.

The suits all claim that individuals suffered heart failure or other cardiovascular injuries after they took the diabetes drug saxagliptin, the active ingredient in Onglyza and Kombiglyze XR.

Most of the claims name Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals and others as defendants. The suits allege that the manufacturers failed to properly warn patients and doctors about the risks of the medications, including the risk of heart failure.

In 2013, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the drugs increased the risk of heart failure by more than 25 percent.

In April 2016 the Food and Drug Administration updated warning notes on medications like Onglyza and Kombiglyze to say that they may increase the risk of heart failure especially for patients with heart disease or kidney disease.

The cases were transferred to Lexington by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. That panel,a special body within the federal court system, manages lawsuits filed in multiple courts. It has the authority to determine whether civil actions pending in two or more judicial districts should be transferred to a single federal district court for pretrial proceedings.

The purpose of the transfer is to conserve the resources of the parties and their counsel as well as the judiciary and to avoid duplication and to prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings. Some cases might be sent back to their place of origin for trial.

Bristol-Myers Squibb and other companies argued against centralizing the cases. They said there were a limited number of cases and there was no evidence that litigation would continue to grow.

But Jaime E. Moss, an attorney with the Michael Brady Lynch Firm, said the 80 cases could be “just the tip of the iceberg” and she anticipates more will be filed. The Michael Brady Lynch Firm, with offices in Florida and California, represents some of the people who sued.

The judicial panel noted that all the pending cases involve common questions of fact and said that centralization will “serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the just and efficient conduct of this litigation.”

This isn’t the first time that product-liability cases have been centralized in the Eastern District of Kentucky. In 2011, more than 250 lawsuits claiming people had been hurt by the pain relievers Darvon and Darvocet other drugs were sent to the district.

All of those cases were resolved between 2012 and 2016.