Novo Nordisk wins appeal over claims that diabetes drug causes cancer

A federal appeals court declined to revive claims that Novo Nordisk’s Type 2 diabetes drug Victoza can cause pancreatic cancer.

A unanimous panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that U.S. District Judge Anthony Battaglia, who presided over a multidistrict litigation over similar diabetes drugs made by Novo Nordisk and other companies, did not abuse his discretion in excluding the plaintiffs’ sole expert on the drug’s alleged cancer link, Robert Gale.

The panel wrote that Gale was “alone” in the scientific community in his view that Victoza causes cancer, and that he admittedly did not independently review studies published since 2015 finding no link, supporting Battaglia’s March 2021 ruling granting summary judgment to Novo Nordisk.

The MDL before Battaglia included about 1,500 plaintiffs and originally targeted not only Novo Nordisk but also AstraZeneca PLC’s Amylin Pharmaceuticals, Eli Lilly and Co, and Merck & Co Inc. However, plaintiffs said in an August 2021 filing that an appeal as to those defendants was “not warranted,” without providing further details.

Plaintiffs accused the companies of failing to warn of the drugs’ risk of pancreatic cancer, after a 2013 study found that patients using them had precancerous pancreatic cells.

A California judge in April 2021 dismissed similar claims by about 500 plaintiffs in a coordinated state court proceeding.


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