When there is a sizable number of lawsuits against a company with similar causes of action, there is usually a movement to combine all of the trials so they are heard before one judge. It's a way to economize on judicial resources and eliminate duplicate efforts when it comes to gathering evidence, filing motions and other pretrial proceedings. This is what is currently happening in lawsuits against Janssen Pharmaceuticals regarding the Type 2 diabetic prescription drug, Invokana (canagliflozin).
To date, there have been nearly 160 lawsuits filed across the country against the Johnson & Johnson subsidiary. All of these lawsuits allege that Invokana was the cause of plaintiffs' kidney damage, and that the manufacturer failed to issue adequate warnings. Health authorities in both the U.S. and Canada support this claim; they have now issued warnings that risks of kidney damage due to ketoacidosis (a condition in which blood becomes dangerously acidic) are greater than were originally indicated. In the wake of that revised warning, victims have been coming forward with allegations that Janssen Pharmaceuticals knew, or should have known, about these risks.
According to the FDA, there were approximately 1.5 million prescriptions written for Invokana and a similar glifozin drug (Farxiga) between October 2014 and September 2015. In addition to kidney damage, FDA records also implicate Invokana to a number of amputations.
So far, nearly 60 Invokana lawsuits have been filed across the U.S. and Canada. Another 100 plaintiffs from Philadelphia are requesting consolidation in Pennsylvania. Currently, 87 of those Pennsylvania lawsuits are being considered for the coordination of discovery and other pretrial proceedings. Not only would this enable the claims to be heard more quickly, it would also mean that rulings on these cases would be consistent. When similar cases are heard by different judges, there is always the possibility that they could rule differently on each one. Two plaintiff's attorneys point out that “Each of these actions and tagalong cases arise out of the same or similar nucleus of operative facts, arise[s] out of the same or similar alleged wrongful conduct...[they] will involve the resolution of the same or similar questions of fact and law.”
Johnson & Johnson continues to deny any liability. A spokesperson for the New Jersey-based pharmaceutical company has stated that the company is “committed to defending against allegations made in these lawsuits.” Amazingly, even as litigation over Invokana continues to grow, the FDA has approved a similar drug, known as Invokamet. This medication is basically a combination of canagliflozin and metformin, an older drug that works to reduce glucose production in the liver. While metformin is relatively harmless (the main side effects include flatulence and diarrhea), the canagliflozin still carries the same risks. Canagliflozin is a new drug, having been on the market for only three years, but plaintiffs' attorneys are predicting that litigation is only just getting started – and may become as big as that against Merck over the deadly analgesic Vioxx, which killed over 38,000 patients.