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Dozens sue saying Ozempic, other weight loss and diabetes drugs cause harmful side effects

Paulsen Bronston tried different medications to manage his diabetes, to no avail, before his doctor suggested a new drug.

In 2018, the doctor advised Bronston, who lives in the Navajo Nation, to take Ozempic to lower his blood sugar. The benefits outweighed any risk of side effects, his physician said.

Bronston, of Kayenta, Arizona, a small town east of the Grand Canyon, continued to take Ozempic for several months even though he experienced severe diarrhea and discomfort. One day, the pain was unbearable.

“I started hurting really bad. I got yellow eyes and stuff like that,” Bronston said. “Next thing you know, I was in the hospital, having my gallbladder removed.”

Bronston and dozens of other patients are suing Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk, the two companies that make drugs within this class of medication, saying they suffered distressing digestive symptoms, such as gallbladder removal or gastroparesis, after taking the drug.

Millions of Americans have flocked to this popular class of drugs known as GLP-1 agonists, or glucagon-like peptide 1, which are prescribed for diabetes and weight loss and have become a blockbuster category of medications for drug companies.

More than five dozen lawsuits accuse Novo Nordisk or Eli Lilly of failing to notify patients about the side effects of their popular diabetes or weight loss drugs. Those drugs include Novo Nordisk’s Ozempic, Wegovy and Rybelsus, and Eli Lilly’s Trulicity and Mounjaro. These personal injury cases have been centralized under a federal judge in Philadelphia because they share common elements involving the same class of drugs.

Among the more than five dozen lawsuits thus far, Novo Nordisk, maker of Ozempic and Wegovy, faces the most suits. However, the attorneys expect the case will eventually include thousands of others who say they were harmed.

In a statement, representatives of Novo Nordisk said the cases are without merit and the company intends to “vigorously defend against these claims.”

The Denmark-based company said its GLP-1 drugs to treat diabetes and weight loss have been on the market for 13 years and have been studied extensively. Novo Nordisk makes the diabetes and weight loss drug semaglutide, which is sold under the brand names Ozempic and Wegovy. On March 8, the drugmaker gained FDA approval to market Wegovy to reduce the risk of stroke, heart attacks and other serious cardiovascular problems.

“Patient safety is our top priority at Novo Nordisk, and we work closely with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to continuously monitor the safety profile of our medicines,” according to the statement. “Novo Nordisk stands behind the safety and efficacy of all of our GLP-1 medicines when they are used as indicated and when they are taken under the care of a licensed healthcare professional.”

Eli Lilly, which makes and sells the diabetes drugs Mounjaro and Trulicity, said in a statement that patient safety is the company’s top priority. The drugmaker says it actively monitors, evaluates and reports safety information for all of its medicines.

“Our FDA-approved labels clearly warn that Mounjaro and Trulicity may be associated with gastrointestinal adverse reactions, sometimes severe,” according to Eli Lilly’s statement. “These risks were communicated to and widely known by healthcare providers.”

Like Novo Nordisk, Lilly officials noted, “We are vigorously defending against these claims.”

The drugs have proven to be immensely popular with Americans with diabetes or seeking to lose weight. By 2030, J.P. Morgan Research forecasts 30 million people will use GLP-1 medications with sales exceeding $1 billion.

On Monday, Oprah Winfrey, whose journey with weight loss has been in the public eye for decades, hosted a special on weight loss featuring people who’ve used weight loss medications to achieve physical and mental changes. The former talk show host described her own experience with weight loss medication, saying she’s not “constantly thinking about what the next meal is gonna be.” She has lost weight on the medication with diet and exercise. She runs, hikes, lifts weights and follows a healthy diet.

Attorney: Some patients face ‘lifelong problems’

More than 60 lawsuits are pending in Philadelphia before U.S. District Judge Gene E. K. Pratter, near Novo Nordisk’s U.S. offices in New Jersey.

Anthony G. Simon, a St. Louis attorney who represents Bronston, the patient from Arizona, and 29 others who have sued Novo Nordisk, said his clients have suffered a range of digestive problems.

“Some patients have their gallbladder removed and they’re better,” Simon said. “Other patients have lifelong problems.”

More litigants are considering joining as the judge works out the parameters for the case.

Andrew Van Arsdale is an attorney in San Diego and Billings, Montana, whose law firm represents about 2,000 people who had side effects or negative reactions to diabetes and weight loss drugs. Those cases haven’t been filed yet because lawyers are waiting for the judge to advise them about how to file them to the court.

“I think we’ll have consensus on that in 30 days, and we’ll start filing a large number of lawsuits,” Van Arsdale told USA TODAY.

Nausea, digestive problems caused by Ozempic, consumers say

Monica Church and Bob Tuttle are among Van Arsdale’s clients considering litigation after complaining of life-altering experiences with Ozempic.

Church felt nauseous in October when she began taking the diabetes drug Ozempic prescribed by her family doctor.

When the Goodrich, Michigan, woman increased the dosage under the guidance of her doctor, she felt something entirely different.

“I couldn’t keep anything down,” Church said. “I couldn’t eat anything. I couldn’t drink anything. I had such burning in my stomach and in my chest that nothing helped.”

She discontinued the medication until one week before Christmas but said her symptoms didn’t improve. She was hospitalized for two weeks because of pain, vomiting and gastroparesis, or stomach paralysis.

She said she now just eats small meals and avoids foods like pizza and bread. But she is staying away from the medication.

Church said her doctor never counseled her about extreme digestive side effects before prescribing the drug.

“If I would have known that it slows down or stops your digestive system, I never would have taken it,” Church said.

Tuttle, of Sevierville, Tennessee, has diabetes and tried to manage his blood sugar with medication such as Metformin and Victoza. He took the medication not only for his health but also to keep his job: He needs to keep his blood sugar levels low to maintain U.S. Coast Guard certification for his management job in the oil and gas industry.

Then he tried Ozempic, at his doctor’s suggestion. About two years after Tuttle began taking Ozempic in 2018, he experienced side effects such as morning nausea and diarrhea. Then last year, while working on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, he became extremely ill. He had to be flown to shore and hospitalized for several days. Doctors ordered several tests before diagnosing him with gastroparesis.

More than one year after he discontinued Ozempic, Tuttle said he still feels nauseous every morning. He’s trying to manage his diabetes by eating right and taking other medications, and he’s avoiding GLP-1s.

After working in the oil and gas industry more than four decades, Tuttle is looking for a job that’s less physically demanding. He lost weight, muscle and strength in the wake of his health crisis.

“Since all this has happened, I’ve just gotten less active,” Tuttle said. “I’m not able to run and gun like I used to.”

Source link : https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2024/03/21/lawsuits-ozempic-wegovy-weight-loss-drugs-diabetes-harmful/72947158007/

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