The drug giants behind the blockbuster obesity drugs, Mounjro and Ozempic, have been sued over claims they caused stomach paralysis.
Personal injury firm Morgan & Morgan took up the case on behalf of a 44-year-old Louisiana woman with diabetes who lost weight while taking the drugs, only to later suffer severe stomach paralysis characterized by vomiting so violent that she lost several teeth and required multiple trips to the hospital.
The lawsuit against Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk, who make Mounjaro and Ozempic, respectively, alleges that the companies failed to warn consumers about the risk of gastroparesis, or paralysis of the stomach.
Paul Pennock, one of the lawyers who represented the Louisiana patient, said: ‘We believe that these drugs are causing these problems. We believe the evidence is sufficient to prove it or we would not have filed the case, and we plan to file many more in the coming days and weeks.
“Her problems are so severe that she has been to the emergency room several times, including this past weekend. In fact, she threw up so badly that she lost her teeth.’
The causes of gastroparesis (stomach paralysis) are largely unknown, but it is thought to be a complication of diabetes. That’s why many of these patients use Ozempic and its sister drug Wegovy in the first place.
Wegovy and Ozempic work by triggering the body to produce a hormone called GLP-1 that is released naturally from the gut after meals
The patient known only as Jaclyn began taking Ozempic, initially intended for people with type II diabetes, but was often prescribed “off-label” for weight loss in the spring of 2022.
She switched to Mounjaro, another weight-loss drug, in July 2023 after more than a year of severe stomach problems such as severe, violent vomiting, a hallmark symptom of gastric paralysis.
Gastric paralysis affects the spontaneous movement of the abdominal muscles responsible for propelling food through the digestive tract. With reduced abdominal muscles, food stays in the stomach longer than it should without being fully digested.
But moving to Mounjaro made no difference, she told her lawyers. Mr Pennock said she stopped taking Mounjaro, an injectable once a week, 10 days ago, adding that there are many other patients with these problems much longer after they have stopped taking Mounjaro or other GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide 1). ) drugs.
Pennock said: ‘Many people suffer from vomiting all the time. I don’t mean once a week, I mean every day, all the time. I mean, so much so that these people go to the emergency room because of their vomiting.”
Ozempic and its higher-dose sister drug Wegovy are commonly known as semaglutide, which stimulates weight loss by mimicking the action of GLP-1, the hormone in the brain that regulates appetite and feelings of satiety.
Mounjaro, developed by Eli Lilly who uses the active drug tirzepatide, has become Ozempic’s biggest competitor.
The attorney’s listing of the approximately 400 other patients in 45 states who have enlisted the company’s help in suing for damages of an unknown total suggests the drug giants can expect a flurry of personal injury lawsuits.
One of those patients was Joanie Knight, 37, who started taking the blockbuster weight loss drug in 2019 and began suffering from severe nausea and vomiting two years after taking the medication.
She was diagnosed with stomach paralysis after the illness got so bad that she was unable to eat.
Her ordeal began on her birthday in 2021, when she discovered she couldn’t swallow her food. “It felt like it got stuck in my throat,” she said.
Despite eating very little that day, the incident caused severe vomiting. That first bout of illness set off a pattern of severe nausea always, no matter how little she ate. She also took anti-nausea pills “as if they were candy.”
Doctors performed a gastric emptying study, a test to find out how much time a meal takes to move through a person’s stomach.
They found that after four hours, more than 35 percent of her food was still in her stomach. Normally, after that long time, less than 10 percent remains.
Ms Knight eventually had to have gastric bypass surgery to improve her gastric emptying, although she continues to suffer from long-term effects. Now she can only eat a few bites of her favorite foods.
The causes of gastroparesis are largely unknown, but it is thought to be a complication of diabetes, which is why many of these patients use Ozempic in the first place.
The long-term effects of the drugs are still under investigation, as the drugs are relatively new. Emerging research shows that patients who stop taking one of the injectables are vulnerable to regaining all lost weight and may need to stay on the medication for a long period of time.
Despite the many unknowns, the pharmaceutical industry is making huge profits. Novo Nordisk owns a staggering majority — 94 percent — of the branded obesity drug market in the US.
The value of Novo has risen to 2.3 trillion Danish kroner ($336 billion), making it the European second most valuable company.
It even bumped 160-year-old Swiss conglomerate Nestle to third place.
Eli Lilly, the creator of Mounjaro, also stakes his stance on obesity.
According to analysts at Morgan Stanley ResearchLilly’s tirzepatide, assuming it gets the green light from the FDA, could bring in about $5.4 billion by 2030.