A federal judicial panel has centralized at least 55 lawsuits against pharmaceutical giants Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly into multidistrict litigation in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. 

The lawsuits claim that these companies failed to adequately warn people about severe gastrointestinal side effects associated with their widely prescribed diabetes and weight-loss drugs, including Ozempic and Mounjaro.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers foresee the MDL evolving to include as many as 10,000 cases related to Ozempic and similar drugs.

The medications under scrutiny belong to the class of glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1 RAs), commonly used to treat type 2 diabetes and aid weight loss.

The prescription drugs named in the lawsuits include Novo Nordisk’s Ozempic, Wegovy and Rybelsus, along with Eli Lilly’s Trulicity and Mounjaro.

Lawsuits Allege Severe Gastrointestinal Injuries

People suing say the companies did not adequately warn them about potential side effects, ranging from stomach paralysis to intestinal obstruction and other gastrointestinal injuries.

The lawsuits, which accuse both companies of downplaying the severity of gastrointestinal issues despite existing warnings on labels, raise questions about corporate responsibility and patient safety.

One of the plaintiffs, Rhonda Breaux of Louisiana, said in her complaint that she used Ozempic for about two months, ending in October 2022. Breaux developed gastroparesis, or stomach paralysis, resulting in severe vomiting, stomach pain and gastrointestinal burning and requiring hospitalization and emergency room visits on several occasions, according to court documents.

Breaux also required additional medications to address issues she blames on Ozempic’s side effects.

Novo Nordisk Supported MDL, Eli Lilly Opposed Its Inclusion

The federal judicial panel ordered the consolidation on Feb. 2, 2024, and assigned the case to U.S. District Judge Gene E. K. Pratter in Pennsylvania’s Eastern District.

Novo Nordisk supported the MDL’s creation but said it would vigorously defend against the Ozempic lawsuits‘ claims. Eli Lilly, a defendant in a smaller proportion of the lawsuits, opposed its inclusion in the MDL. 

The panel chose the Eastern District of Pennsylvania as the venue based on its convenience for both parties, proximity to Novo Nordisk’s New Jersey headquarters and efficiency in managing pretrial proceedings.

Advocates argue that consolidating the lawsuits through the MDL process promotes streamlined proceedings and avoids conflicting rulings from different judges.