Byetta (exenatide) was the first of a new class of type 2 diabetes drugs known as glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists. The benefits of GLP-1 drugs—also called incretin mimetics—included a low risk of hypoglycemia and successful weight loss. They generated early excitement, but this was soon tempered by reports that Byetta and similar drugs were a possible risk factor for pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer.
Multidistrict litigation in California federal court consolidates hundreds of Byetta lawsuits alleging that the drug causes pancreatic cancer.
By 2013 there were dozens of pancreatic cancer lawsuits against the manufacturers of Byetta, Victoza, Janument, and Januvia. These cases were combined into multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the Southern District of California. Within two years the number of cases in the MDL swelled into the hundreds. And while a 2015 legal ruling appeared to put an end to these cases, a recent court decision in favor of plaintiffs has revived the claims.
Our attorneys are helping to direct the MDL against Eli Lilly, Amylin Pharmaceuticals, and other drug companies. If you or a loved one took Byetta and developed pancreatic cancer, please contact us for a free case evaluation.
What Claims Have Plaintiffs Made Against Eli Lilly?
Multidistrict litigation is a procedural mechanism that consolidates in one court numerous lawsuits with similar legal claims against similar defendants.
In the case of the incretin memetics MDL in Southern California, hundreds of plaintiffs claim that Eli Lilly and Amylin Pharmaceuticals (which co-sold Byetta until 2011), Novo Nordisk Inc. (maker of Victoza), and Merck & Co. (Januvia and Janumet) sold GLP-1 diabetes drugs that cause pancreatic cancer.
The specific claims against Eli Lilly/Amylin and other drug companies include:
- Failure to warn: The manufacturers allegedly did not provide adequate warnings about the pancreatic cancer risks of Byetta and other GLP-1s.
- Design defect: Byetta and similar drugs allegedly contain a defective formulation and are unreasonably dangerous.
- Negligence: The defendants allegedly knew or should have known that the drugs create a high risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
According to the master complaint filed in the MDL, “As a result of the defective nature of the [incretin mimetic] Drugs, persons who were prescribed and ingested the Drugs, even for a brief period of time, including Plaintiffs, were at increased risk for developing life-threatening pancreatic cancer.”
Once that cancer spreads, the complaint states, a patient stands just a 1.8 percent chance of surviving more than five years.
Is There a Link Between Byetta and Pancreatic Cancer?
A number of scientific studies support plaintiff claims that Byetta causes pancreatic cancer.
- In 2010, researchers wrote in the journal Diabetes Care that “there is a plausible risk that long-term recipients of GLP-1-based therapy may develop asymptomatic pancreatitis… and worse, a minority of individuals treated by this class of drugs may develop pancreatic cancer.”
- Research published in 2011 in the journal Gastroenterology found a reported event rate for pancreatic cancer that was 2.9 times greater in patients treated with Byetta compared to those treated with other diabetes medications.
- Adverse event data from the Drug Commission of the German Medical Association found an unusually high incidence of pancreatic cancer associated with Byetta. The data showed an average of 12.2 months between the start of treatment with Byetta and a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.
- A case-controlled epidemiological study on the effect of GLP-1 drugs on the pancreas published in JAMA in 2013 concluded that an association between GLP-1s and pancreatitis “may be causal.” This is significant because antecedent pancreatitis is the most common risk factor for subsequent pancreatic cancer.
On the other hand, some studies have found no link between GLP-1s and pancreatic cancer. Conflicting safety data will no doubt be a point of contention between plaintiffs and defendants in Byetta litigation.
What About Federal Preemption?
Not long into the MDL proceedings, the drug companies petitioned the court to dismiss plaintiffs’ pancreatic cancer claims on the basis of federal preemption (the concept that federal law trumps state law).
A judicial panel ruling in December 2017 sided with Byetta plaintiffs and put the lawsuits back on track.
The drug companies argued that, in light of the available evidence, the FDA would not have changed drug labels on Byetta, Victoza, Januvia, and Janumet to warn about the pancreatic cancer risk. Therefore, they claimed, the drugmakers could not be held liable under state laws for failure to warn about pancreatic cancer.
The California federal judge overseeing the incretin mimetics MDL agreed with the defendants’ argument and entered a ruling in November 2015 that effectively put an end to plaintiffs’ claims.
But in December 2017, a judicial panel sided with the plaintiffs and vacated the previous ruling. As a result, plaintiffs are on track to receive their day in court over GLP-1 pancreatic cancer claims.
Who Is Eligible for a Byetta Lawsuit?
If you meet the following criteria, you may be eligible for a Byetta pancreatic cancer lawsuit:
- You were prescribed Byetta for type-2 diabetes and took the drug as directed
- You developed pancreatic cancer after starting Byetta therapy
- Pancreatic cancer caused you to suffer damages (such as medical expenses and loss of income)
Plaintiffs may also seek claims related to the wrongful death of a loved one who was prescribed Byetta and developed fatal pancreatic cancer.
How Can I File a Byetta Lawsuit?
We have a leadership role in the California incretin mimetics MDL, as attorney Michael Goetz was appointed to the plaintiffs’ steering committee. Mr. Goetz is on the front line of this legal fight and will work in the best interests of each and every plaintiff.
Our attorneys have a strong track record of success against Big Pharma and other powerful corporations. If you are considering a legal claim against Eli Lilly/Amylin or another drug maker, your first step should be to speak with an attorney.
Learn your legal rights and options during a free case review.
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