Are There Lawsuits Over Ozempic Side Effects?

Popular diabetes and weight loss medications like Ozempic have been linked to stomach paralysis and other serious health problems.

By , J.D. · University of San Francisco School of Law

Ozempic has been making plenty of headlines recently, owing to its increasing popularity in the treatment of diabetes and obesity, and to the "Do they or don't they?" debate surrounding many a celebrity's weight loss story. But Ozempic and similar drugs are also making news for some potentially harmful side effects and a gathering wave of lawsuits.

In this article, we'll explain the basis for recent lawsuits against the manufacturers of drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy, and we'll look at the landscape of legal issues surrounding these kinds of cases.

What Do Drugs Like Ozempic Do?

Ozempic (a brand name for the drug semaglutide) was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2017, for the treatment of diabetes. Specifically, Ozempic was approved to treat patients living with type-2 diabetes, with the twin goals of:

  • controlling their blood sugar levels, and
  • reducing their risk of heart attack and stroke.

The weight loss benefits of Ozempic use soon became clear, and while it hasn't been approved for weight loss by the FDA, the prescribing of Ozempic for the "off label" use of weight management has exploded in recent years.

In 2021, another semaglutide medication, Wegovy, received FDA approval for "chronic weight management" in certain patients, and has also seen a huge boost in popularity.

From a weight loss/weight management perspective, Ozempic, Wegovy and similar drugs (often called "GLP-1 agonists") work by mimicking the hormone "glucagon-like peptide-1" (or "GLP-1"), which targets areas of the brain that regulate appetite and eating.

Who Makes Ozempic?

Ozempic and Wegovy are both manufactured by Novo Nordisk, a multinational pharmaceutical giant with a net worth of well over 500 billion dollars.

What Are the Side Effects Of Using Ozempic?

The use of almost any prescription medication comes with side effects. Drug manufacturers are required to disclose known side effects and other potential health issues that might be linked to use of their products. Drug makers often work in conjunction with the FDA, which is charged with the regulation of prescription drug labeling, and decides issues like whether a certain drug should come with a "black box" warning.

Side effects of Ozempic (as reported by Novo Nordisk, and included on the medication's packaging) include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • constipation, and
  • stomach pain.

Ozempic's labeling also includes warnings about potential thyroid tumors, even the cancerous kind.

In September 2023, the FDA ordered an addition to Ozempic's labeling, which would warn patients and health care providers that the drug might cause intestinal blockage, which in hindsight looks like something of a precursor to the wave of lawsuits that followed.

Why Are People Suing Over Ozempic and Similar Drugs?

Ozempic and Wegovy (and similar medications like Mounjaro) haven't been on the market very long, so patients and health care providers are only beginning to get a clear sense of the long-term effects of using these drugs, including and going beyond the risks indicated on product labeling.

The first lawsuits filed against Novo Nordisk over the safety of Ozempic and Wegovy came in 2023, and so far, the vast majority of these cases claim there's a link between use of the medications and the development of significant (even severe) gastrointestinal problems.

Specifically, most of the lawsuits allege that use of Ozempic, Wegovy, and similar drugs has:

  • caused digestive problems like gastroparesis (sometimes called "stomach paralysis"), and
  • necessitated medical procedures like gall bladder removal.

What Is Gastroparesis?

According to the Mayo Clinic, gastroparesis is a condition that affects the normal, involuntary movement of the stomach muscles, which ordinarily contract to move food along through the digestive tract. In patients with gastroparesis, this normal digestive movement is slowed down (or stopped altogether), preventing the stomach from emptying properly, leading to nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and other symptoms.

Do Ozempic and Wegovy Cause Pancreatic Cancer?

Use of drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy doesn't appear to boost the risks of pancreatic cancer, despite a few earlier concerns. In January 2024, JAMA Network Open, a medical journal published by the American Medical Association, reported the results of a seven-year study of more than 500,000 type 2 diabetes patients, which found no increased risk of pancreatic cancer in those patients.

Are Ozempic and Wegovy Linked to Suicide?

It doesn't look like there's a link between use of semaglutide drugs and increased risk of suicidal thoughts (or "suicidal ideation"), according to a January 2024 study of nearly 2 million diabetes and obesity patients. The report, published in Nature Medicine, found that these drugs actually reduced the risk of suicidal thoughts in these patients.

Who Can File an Ozempic Lawsuit?

With the potential link between Ozempic (and similar drugs) and serious stomach problems like gastroparesis only now coming into focus, many of these lawsuits are proceeding on the logic that the plaintiff (the person filing the case):

  • used Ozempic, Wegovy, or a similar product (maybe for years)
  • has no history of gastroparesis or other stomach problems, and
  • has recently been diagnosed with gastroparesis, or some other gastrointestinal complication.

That last component is key. Even if you've used Ozempic or a similar drug for years, and you're worried you might develop stomach paralysis or other digestive issues, that's not enough of a basis for an injury lawsuit. Cases like these require actual harm ("damages" in the language of the law), which usually means diagnosis of a medical problem that might be linked to Ozempic, Wegovy, or a similar drug.

What Do Ozempic Lawsuit Plaintiffs Need to Prove?

Lawsuits over potential health problems linked to prescription drugs like Ozempic are typically based on "product liability," a fault theory that can be used to hold manufacturers and others responsible for injuries and illnesses caused by all kinds of products.

An offshoot of the product liability concept focuses on a manufacturer's obligation to warn consumers of risks associated with a product's use, especially when there's evidence of links between the product and serious illness or injury. And Ozempic lawsuits tend to zero in on this obligation. Specifically, most plaintiffs claim that Novo Nordisk failed to properly warn Ozempic and Wegovy patients of the health risks associated with use of these drugs, by downplaying or ignoring certain gastrointestinal health risks on product labeling.

Of course, wrapped up in this "failure to warn" issue is whether there's an actual provable link between Ozempic and the kinds of health problems these plaintiffs are experiencing, and that's why sound scientific evidence and the input of qualified expert witnesses are often crucial to the success of a product liability lawsuit.

Learn more about proving a product liability case.

Is There a Deadline For Filing an Ozempic Lawsuit?

Yes. In every state, a law called a "statute of limitations" sets a time limit on the right to file any kind of lawsuit. Different deadlines apply to different kinds of cases, but the consequences of missing the filing window are the same: try to file your lawsuit after the statutory time limit has passed, and your case will almost certainly be dismissed.

In most states, a specific statute of limitations applies to product liability lawsuits like the ones being filed over Ozempic-related health problems, but the deadline varies from state to state—usually it's somewhere between two and six years.

There also might be questions about when the "clock" starts running for purposes of the statute of limitations in a lawsuit over harm caused by a prescription drug.

Learn more about how the statute of limitations works in product liability cases and talk to an injury attorney for specifics on how the lawsuit-filing deadline might apply to your Ozempic case.

How Much Is an Ozempic Lawsuit Worth?

It's tough to put a dollar figure on any kind of personal injury case, including those claiming health problems caused by a drug like Ozempic. The value of these kinds of cases depends on the very specific, subjective impact on the plaintiff, including:

  • the details of the plaintiff's health problems, like the extent of medical treatment necessary to treat their gastrointestinal problems, their prognosis for a full recovery, and whether any additional medical care will be required in the future
  • related effects on the plaintiff's ability to earn a living, perform household chores, enjoy hobbies, etc., and
  • the extent of the plaintiff's mental and physical "pain and suffering" resulting from their Ozempic-related health problems, and additional medical care/procedures needed to correct those problems.

Learn more about damages in a product liability case.

Ozempic Lawsuit Updates

Since August 2023, hundreds of lawsuits have been filed over Ozempic, Wegovy, and similar medications nationwide. As we discussed earlier, most of the lawsuits claim that these drugs cause stomach paralysis and similar gastrointestinal problems, and that manufacturers like Novo Nordisk failed to warn patients and health care providers about those risks.

In February 2024, dozens of these claims were grouped together in a process known as "multidistrict litigation" (MDL). The MDL is called In Re: Glucagon-like Peptide-1 Receptor Agonists (GLP-1 RAS) Products Liability Litigation. It's being handled by Judge Gene E.K. Pratter in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and it's still in its early stages. One of the next steps in the MDL will be discovery, when the two sides gather evidence and learn more about the strengths and weakness of each other's positions.

Learn more about how multidistrict litigation works in product liability cases, and talk to a lawyer about whether the MDL might make sense for your Ozempic case.

Is There an Ozempic Class Action?

There's no class action over health problems caused by Ozempic or similar drugs, mostly because there are too many patient-to-patient variables (such as severity of Ozempic-related health problems) to make a class action workable. MDL is a much better fit for lawsuits like these.

Note that there's likely to be one or more consumer protection-focused class action lawsuits over the safety of Ozempic and similar drugs, but those proceedings won't be seeking a legal remedy for illness or injury.

Do I Need a Lawyer For an Ozempic Lawsuit?

In a word, yes. A product liability lawsuit against a pharmaceutical giant like Novo Nordisk isn't the kind of legal matter you want to try handling on your own. Making sure you have the right lawyer on your side—one who will put together your best case and won't back down from the kind of fight Novo Nordisk is sure to put up—can make all the difference in getting the right result.

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