Judicial panel weighs decision to consolidate Januvia, Janumet, and Byetta lawsuits

by Heygood Orr and Pearson

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation is set to decide whether to consolidate before a single judge more than 50 lawsuits filed by users of the diabetes drugs Byetta, Januvia, and Janumet. The panel heard arguments on July 25, 2013, from lawyers on both sides of the cases on whether to consolidate 53 Byetta, Janumet, and Januvia federal lawsuits filed by patients who developed pancreatitis or pancreatic cancer after taking one of these drugs.

Byetta, Januvia, and Janumet fall under a class of medications known as incretin mimetics, which are used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. The drugs help to limit the body’s production of incretin hormones, which release insulin after eating.

According to warnings by the Food and Drug Administration, patients who take Byetta, Januvia, or Janumet may be more likely to develop pancreatic problems. A study published by JAMA Internal Medicine found that users of Byetta, Janumet, and Januvia were twice as likely to be diagnosed with acute pancreatitis and six times more likely to develop pancreatic symptoms.

The FDA has also launched a study of these drugs after receiving evidence of a link between Byetta, Janumet, and Januvia and pancreatic cancer. The agency has received several reports of patients who developed pancreatic cancer after taking one of these diabetes drugs.

The proposed Januvia, Janumet, and Byetta Multidistrict Litigation, or MDL, would consolidate lawsuits filed on behalf of users of these drugs for discovery and pretrial purposes. Unlike a class action lawsuit, however, the cases would remain legally distinct, allowing plaintiffs to pursue separate settlement negotiations as they see fit.