Nexium’s subsidiary, the British company AstraZeneca, has agreed to pay almost half a billion dollars to settle over 10,000 lawsuits alleging that its drugs Nexium and Prilosec were connected to plaintiffs’ kidney diseases. While the companies will not admit any liability, they will pay out $425 million to settle charges brought against them.

The center of these lawsuits is Nexium, Prilosec, and other heartburn drugs that function as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). PPIs treat heartburn by being absorbed into the part of the stomach that is responsible for secreting acid. Once absorbed, these drugs block or inhibit the pump which would produce additional stomach acid and cause heartburn, acid reflux, esophagitis, or other similar conditions. 

However, while these drugs are used to treat heartburn, plaintiffs in these 11,000 lawsuits have claimed that they also caused them to develop chronic kidney disease. In addition to the 11,000 lawsuits filed against Nexium and AstraZeneca, there are also lawsuits against Abbott Laboratories over their heartburn drug Prevacid and Takeda Pharmaceutical over its drug Dexilant. The uniting thread in these cases is that they are all PPIs that at either prescription or over-the-counter strength allegedly led to kidney health issues. 

Most PPI heartburn drug lawsuits were consolidated into a multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the New Jersey Federal Courts in 2017 where discovery and pretrial motions have been proceeding. This settlement covers some federal and state-level cases in New Jersey and Delaware, Reuters reports. 

One plaintiff’s attorney, Chris Seeger, released a statement in which he praised the settlement as “a significant victory for the thousands of patients.” In the wake of this settlement, there is still a single lawsuit scheduled to go to trial in April against AstraZeneca regarding its PPI drugs. Separately, litigation continues against GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) over its ranitidine-based heartburn drug Zantac. Since being bounced back to the state courts, thousands of Zantac lawsuits remain unsettled.

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