A federal judicial panel has centralized dozens of Invokana lawsuits in New Jersey federal court.
The lawsuits claim that Invokana can cause ketoacidosis and other injuries.
The lawsuits claim that diabetes medications Invokana and Invokamet cause ketoacidosis, kidney damage, and other injuries.
More cases are expected in the multidistrict litigation (MDL) over Johnson & Johnson’s blockbuster drug, which was recently revealed as a top-spending brand on doctor payments.
Judges Grant Centralization, Citing Commonality
Plaintiffs alleging harm from Invokana and Invokamet in September requested that the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) consolidate 55 individual lawsuits in New Jersey federal court, citing enhanced efficiency.
On December 7 the JMPL agreed and issued an order transferring lawsuits from California, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Minnesota to the District of New Jersey under Judge Brian R. Martinotti.
“We find that the Invokana/Invokamet actions involve common questions of fact, and that centralization of these cases will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the just and efficient conduct of this litigation,” the Panel wrote. “The actions share factual questions arising from allegations that taking Invokana or Invokamet may result in patients suffering various injuries, including diabetic ketoacidosis and kidney damage.”
Plaintiffs claimed in their consolidation request that J&J knew about kidney damage and ketoacidosis caused by Invokana/Invokamet, but did not warn patients while continuing to promote the drug. Plaintiffs also allege that Invokana and Invokamet are defectively designed and were not adequately tested.
Multidistrict litigation centralizes similar cases for pretrial proceedings, making it easier for lawyers to coordinate their activities. Individual cases are tried in the jurisdictions where they were originally filed.
Several MDL cases, known as bellwether cases, are typically singled out and tried first.
The Panel says it is aware of 44 additional related federal lawsuits.
New—but Not Necessarily Improved—Diabetes Drug
Invokana (canagliflozin) was approved in 2013 to treat Type 2 diabetes. It belongs to a new class of diabetic drugs known as sodium-glucose co-transporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors. Invokana works differently than older diabetes drugs, and poses new risks.
Invokana works differently than older diabetes drugs, and poses new risks.
Diabetic patients do not produce enough insulin, causing dangerous blood sugar spikes that damage the body over time.
Older diabetes drugs increase insulin levels, but SGLT2 inhibitors are different. They reduce the amount of blood sugar the kidneys reabsorb into the body by expelling some sugar through urination.
This mechanism of action is associated with an increased risk of acute kidney damage. The FDA strengthened existing kidney damage warnings for Invokana and other SGLT2 inhibitors in June 2016, but some say this was too little, too late.
Invokana is also linked to potentially-fatal excessive blood acids (ketoacidosis), increased bone fracture risk, cardiovascular side effects, and amputations.
J&J Spent Millions on Invokana Doctor Payments
In 2015, Invokana’s second full year on the market, sales surged 123 percent to $1.3 billion.
That same year, public records show, J&J spent $20.9 million promoting Invokana to physicians. Only two brands—Xarelto and Humira—were associated with higher doctor spending. Other top-spending brands for 2015 were Viekira, Eliquis, and Androgel.
These figures come from ProPublica’s Dollars for Docs, which is based on disclosures required under the Physicians Payments Sunshine Act, part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act.
Included in the payments data is money for speaking, consulting, meals, travel, gifts, and royalties. Although doctors who receive drug company money are not formally obligated to prescribe certain products, research shows that doctors receiving payments tend to prescribe more brand-name drugs than those not receiving payments.
Invokana spending reflects increased SGLT2 competition in a growing diabetes treatment market.