Amidst this backdrop, the heartburn medication Zantac (ranitidine) has found itself at the center of a litigation storm. Data from X-Ante, a litigation analysis firm, reveals the drug is the most frequent drug target of mass tort TV advertising in 2023 based on estimated ad spending. Pain relievers, ranging from over-the-counter (OTC) options like acetaminophen to opioids, were also common lawsuit targets.
Here’s a breakdown of the top pharmaceutical drug targets based on estimated ad spending from January to August in 2023:
Zantac leads the charge: $3.2M spent on mass tort TV advertising
In 1983, ranitidine, more commonly known as Zantac, scored its first FDA approval. While the drug would eventually become one of the world’s best sellers, the discovery of high levels of N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), a carcinogenic industrial by-product, in some Ranitidine products led the FDA to request the removal of all ranitidine products in 2020. Before that announcement, several prominent pharmacies announced they would remove the drugs from their shelves.
Ranitidine has since become a lawsuit magnet. From January to August 2023 alone, law firms across the U.S. spent $3.2 million on mass tort TV advertising targeting ranitidine. Despite the intense scrutiny, recent studies, including one recently published in JAMA Network Open, suggest that history of ranitidine use is not linked to an elevated cancer risk compared with use of other H2 receptor antagonists. The study, however, calls for further research on the subject.
In December 2022, a judge dismissed thousands of ranitidine lawsuits citing insufficient evidence. Plaintiffs plan to appeal.
Opioids, the class of potent pain relievers that includes medications such as oxycodone and morphine, are a frequent cause of preventable deaths, as CDC has noted. The drug class continues to attract a variety of litigation types, including federal multidistrict litigations, state court cases, individual suits, allegations of deceptive marketing practices and insurance coverage disputes. In 2022, FDA allowed OTC use of the opioid overdose drug naloxone.
Following a 2019 revelation by the NIH about a potential connection between prenatal acetaminophen exposure and elevated rates of autism and ADHD, legal scrutiny has intensified around the popular pain reliever. In late 2022, attorneys launched a new mass tort litigation alleging that major retailers, including Costco and Walmart, did not sufficiently warn consumers of the alleged link between the use of acetaminophen during pregnancy and conditions such as autism and ADHD in children. Consolidated in a Manhattan federal court, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation combined 18 lawsuits and added another 48, all focused on similar claims.
Weight Loss Drugs (Ozempic, Wegovy): $871K
The popular weight loss and diabetes drugs Ozempic and Wegovy face lawsuits alleging that manufacturers did not adequately communicate the potential risks and adverse effects associated with the medications. Such claims of adverse events include severe injuries and gastrointestinal problems such as gastroparesis, a gastrointestinal motility disorder.
Horizon Therapeutics’ medication Tepezza (teprotumumab-trbw) is facing significant legal challenges from patients claiming permanent hearing loss or tinnitus. As of August 2023, there were 46 Tepezza cases pending in multidistrict litigation (MDL). A small 2021 study published by the Endocrine Society suggested that up to 65% of Tepezza users could face hearing problems, a statistic that is sharply higher than the 10% reported in initial clinical trials. Horizon updated Tepezza’s label in July 2023 to include a warning about potential severe hearing problems.
Other notable drugs targeted in mass tort TV advertising from January to August 2023:
- Excedrin: $518K
- Nyquil: $518K
- Gardasil: $517K
- Gilead HIV TDF medications (e.g. Truvada, Viread, Atripla): $517K
- Dayquil: $436K
Note: The ad spending on Excedrin, Nyquil, and Dayquil are included in the acetaminophen/Tylenol advertising as additional drugs mentioned in those ads.
Filed Under: Regulatory affairs