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US Suits take aim at J&J diabetes drug Invokana

Johnson & Johnson Headquarters in New Brunswick, New Jersey.  Photo: Ekem via Wikimedia Commons.
Johnson & Johnson Headquarters in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Photo: Ekem via Wikimedia Commons.

By Charles Toutant, From New Jersey Law Journal

Johnson & Johnson faces allegations in a pair of suits filed March 30 that users of its popular diabetes drug, Invokana, develop kidney damage and heart disease.

The latest filings bring the number of Invokana suits filed in federal court in New Jersey to three. Another case making similar claims was filed in November 2015.

The three suits all name Johnson & Johnson as well as its Janssen Pharmaceuticals division and Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Corp. as defendants. The drug was developed by Mitsubishi Tanabe and is marketed by Janssen under a licensing agreement.

The latest suits include a claim on behalf of Cornelius Benjamin, a South Carolina resident who allegedly suffered a stroke and kidney damage after he was prescribed Invokana for diabetes, according to court papers. He died in June 2013, two months after he began taking Invokana, the suit claims.

The plaintiff in the other suit, Alabama resident Robert Partington, allegedly took the drug for 19 months before developing kidney damage, according to court papers.

Both suits claim that the defendants failed to warn the plaintiffs of potential side effects of Invokana. Partington’s suit includes claims for failure to warn, defective manufacturing, breach of express warranty, breach of warranty of fitness for everyday use, negligence, breach of implied warranty, fraudulent misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation, fraudulent concealment and fraud. The suit seeks punitive damages as well as pain and suffering and non-economic damages for increased risk of future complications. The Benjamin case brings similar claims but also includes counts for wrongful death and for a survivor action.

Christopher Seeger of Seeger Weiss in Newark filed the Partington and Benjamin cases.

In the suit filed in 2015, Texas resident Maria Puente claims she suffered kidney damage and a potentially fatal condition called diabetic ketoacidosis as a result of taking the drug. The defendants have not filed an answer yet in the Puente case.

Other suits by Invokana users are pending in federal court in Alabama, in the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia and in Ontario, Canada.

Invokana was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2013 for treatment of Type 2 diabetes. The drug prevents the body from metabolizing excess glucose by directing it to be excreted through the kidneys, according to court papers. An analysis of incidents reported to the FDA shows patients taking Invokana for diabetes are several times more likely to report kidney disease than those taking other types of diabetes treatment, the complaints allege.

The suits claim the defendants fraudulently and intentionally concealed the drug’s problems from users, and that the facts that were concealed were material to a reasonable person who was deciding whether or not to use the drug.

Invokana is one of Johnson & Johnson’s top-selling drugs, with sales of $278 million in the first quarter of 2015, according to court papers.

Seeger did not return a call about his Invokana cases. Nor did Puente’s attorney, Michael London of Douglas & London in New York. Johnson & Johnson also did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the Invokana litigation.

A statement from Johnson & Johnson spokeswoman Kaitlin Meiser said: “Invokana is an important medicine used along with diet and exercise to lower blood sugar in adults with type 2 diabetes. With real world experience that includes more than five million prescriptions to date, we are confident in the overall safety profile of Invokana. The company remains committed to aggressively defending against allegations made in these lawsuits.”


Johnson & Johnson Headquarters in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Photo: Ekem via Wikimedia Commons

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