Lipitor Lawsuit to be Ready for Trial in MDL by July 2015
The federal judge presiding over all Lipitor diabetes lawsuit filed by women throughout the United States has indicated that the first case may be ready to go to trial by next summer.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard Gergel is currently presiding over nearly 500 product liability lawsuits filed against Pfizer, which have been centralized in the District of South Carolina as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation.
All of the complaints involve similar allegations that women developed diabetes from side effects of Lipitor, and many involved in the litigation believe that there will ultimately be several thousand cases involved in the Lipitor litigation.
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In a Case Management Order (PDF) issued late last month, Judge Gergel outlined the organizational structure and timelines for handling the litigation, indicating that trial for the first case will begin on or after July 1, 2015.
Judge Gergel outlined a number of measures designed to increase the efficiency and coordination of Lipitor cases, including procedures that allow plaintiffs to file new Lipitor lawsuits directly in the MDL, instead of having cases brought in various different U.S. District Courts throughout the country, before being transferred to the District of South Carolina.
The order laid out detailed discovery and document procedures for Pfizer and ordered parties to meet to attempt to resolve any discovery disputes before bringing them to the court’s attention. Judge Gergel also indicated that the parties should coordinate with lawsuits pending in different state courts.
As part of the coordinated pretrial proceedings, it is expected that a small group of lawsuits will be prepared for early trial dates in the litigation, known as “bellwether” cases. While the outcomes of these trials would not be binding on other cases, they may help the parties gauge the relative strengths and weaknesses of their cases and ultimately lead to Lipitor settlement agreements.
Lipitor (atorvastatin) is a cholesterol drug that is one of the most widely used brand-name medications in the United States. It is part of a class of medications known as statins, and has been used by millions of Americans.
All of the cases centralized before Judge Gergel involve nearly identical allegations raised by women diagnosed with diabetes. Plaintiffs claim that Pfizer has known about the link between Lipitor and diabetes, yet withheld information from consumers and the medical community while building their blockbuster cholesteral drug, which is one of the most widely used brand-name medications in the U.S.
In February 2012, the FDA required new diabetes warnings for Lipitor and other similar statins, informing users for the first time that they may face an increased risk of changes to blood glucose levels. However, plaintiffs allege that Pfizer was aware of the possible risk of diabetes long before these warnings were issued, with some studies connecting statins to diabetes date as far back as 2004.
Plaintiffs maintain that if they had been provided proper warnings about the Lipitor risks, they could have avoided diabetes by choosing not to take the cholesterol drug or by diligently monitoring their blood glucose levels during treatment.
Judge Gergel has scheduled a status conference in the MDL for May 16, at which time the court will review the plaintiffs’ discovery plan and fact sheets, defendant fact sheets, and a bellwether trial selection process.
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