Consolidation of Lipitor Diabetes Cases to be Considered on July 25

Lawyers are scheduled to present oral arguments to a panel of federal judges on July 25, over whether all Lipitor diabetes lawsuits filed in U.S. District Courts throughout the country should be consolidated before one judge for coordinated pretrial proceedings as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation.  

A growing number of complaints have been filed in courts throughout the country by former users of the blockbuster cholesterol drug, alleging that Pfizer failed to adequately warn about the risk of diabetes for women from Lipitor side effects.

Given the widespead use Lipitor, which has generated more than $125 billion in sales since 1996, it is expected that thousands of cases will ultimately filed in the coming months and years.

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In April, a group of plaintiffs filed a motion with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML), asking for the centralization of all Lipitor diabetes cases for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.

Such consolidation is common in complex pharmaceutical litigation, where a large number of lawsuits are filed in the federal court system raising similar injury allegations associated with the same medication. So far, at least five cases have been filed in three different federal districts.

Plaintiffs have requested the formation of a Lipitor MDL to reduce duplicative discovery across the large number of cases expected, to avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different judges and to serve the convenience of the witnesses, the parties and the courts.

In a response filed last month, Pfizer opposed the creation of an MDL for the Lipitor cases, arguing that the litigation is not sufficiently large enough to require the consolidated proceedings and that such a procedure would only result in a wave of lawsuits filed by lawyers who may not otherwise be willing to litigate the claims.

According to a scheduling order (PDF) issued earlier this month by the U.S. JPML, oral arguments on the motion will be considered at a hearing at the Edward T. Gignoux Federal Courthouse in Portland, Maine on July 25. Following the hearing, the MDL panel will determine whether consolidation is appropriate in for the Lipitor cases and decide where the litigation should be centralized.

Allegations Raised in Lipitor Cases

Lipitor (atorvastatin) is a drug designed to lower cholesterol, and is a member of a class of drugs known as statins, which also includes Crestor and others. Statins collectively generate more than $14.5 billion annually, and Lipitor is the best selling drug of the class.

In lawsuits filed throughout the country, plaintiffs allege that Pfizer failed to adequately warn patients or the medical community that Lipitor may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, especially among otherwise healthy women who took the medication to reduce their cholesterol levels and avoid heart disease.

Plaintiffs argue that due to the complications of diabetes from Lipitor, they are now required to regularly monitor their blood glucose levels, follow a restrictive diabetic diet and take other medications to control their diabetes. In addition, plaintiffs claim that they now face an increased risk of heart disease, blindness, neuropathy, kidney disease and other health problems from diabetes.

In February 2012, the FDA announced it was requiring 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 knew or should have known about 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.

Although consolidating cases as part of an MDL is commonly confused with a Lipitor class action lawsuit, each of the cases would still remain an individual lawsuit where the plaintiff must establish that their diabetes diagnosis was caused by side effects of the medication. Following the coordinated proceedings and any early “test” trials, if an agreement to settle the Lipitor cases is not reached, each individual lawsuit may be remanded back to the U.S. District Court where it was originally filed for a separate trial date.


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