The first bellwether trial for a Lipitor lawsuit over the risk of diabetes associated with the popular cholesterol drug is expected to go before a jury in November, if the plaintiff is able to convince the Court to deny Prizer’s motion for summary judgment in the case.
Pfizer currently faces about 2,500 product liability lawsuits throughout the entire federal court system that allege the drug maker failed to adequately warn about the risk of diabetes from Lipitor. The cases are consolidated for pretrial proceedings as part of a federal MDL, or multidistrict litigation, which is centralized before U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel in the District of South Carolina.
All of the complaints involve similar claims that women developed type 2 diabetes after using Lipitor, alleging that Pfizer knew or should have known about the increased risk for years, yet withheld information from consumers and the medical community while building sales for their blockbuster cholesterol treatment.
As part of the MDL proceedings, a small group of cases have been prepared for early trial dates. Known as “bellwether” trials, these Lipitor diabetes cases are designed to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the litigation.
The first Lipitor trial is scheduled to begin on November 4, 2015, involving a case brought by Wilma Daniels, a 67-year-old woman from Colorado who developed type 2 diabetes after she began using the medication in 1997.
Daniels alleges that she previously had a healthy weight and diet, and began using Lipitor as a preventative measure to reduce her cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. However, instead, she has been left with diabetes, which requires adherence to a special diet, regular monitoring of blood glucose levels and places her at increased risk of several serious health problems.
Last week, Pfizer filed a motion for summary judgment (PDF), asking Judge Gergel to dismiss the case. The drug maker argues that the plaintiff has insufficient evidence to establish that Lipitor caused her diabetes.
The drug maker argues that Daniels showed signs of having diabetes before she began taking Lipitor, indicating that she had a number of risk factors, including a family history of diabetes, blood glucose levels in the pre-diabetes range, high blood pressure, being overweight, and a long history of smoking.
A plaintiff’s response has yet to be filed in the case.
While the outcome of the Daniel’s trial is not binding on any other Lipitor cases, it will be closely watched, as it may influence eventual negotiations to reach Lipitor settlements with Pfizer.