Lawyers involved in the federal Lipitor diabetes lawsuits are scheduled to meet with the judge presiding over the litigation tomorrow, for a status conference focused issues surrounding the preparation of a small group of cases for early trial dates.
There are currently about 1,000 product liability lawsuits filed against Pfizer in the federal court system, which all involve similar claims that side effects of Lipitor caused women to develop diabetes, alleging that Pfizer failed to adequately warn consumers or the medical community about the risks associated with their blockbuster cholesterol drug.
The litigation has quickly grown this year, and as Lipitor diabetess lawyers continue to review and file additional cases, it is expected that several thousand lawsuits will be pending by the end of this year.
Amid the mounting number of cases filed in U.S. District Courts throughout the country, coordinated pretrial proceedings were established earlier this year in the federal court system, centralizing the litigation before U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel in the District of South Carolina as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation. The consolidation is designed to reduce duplicative discovery throughout the lawsuits, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different judges and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.
As part of the coordinated pretrial proceedings before Judge Gergel, small group of Lipitor bellwether lawsuits are being prepared for early trial dates, which are designed to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that may be offered throughout the litigation.
In a joint report (PDF) submitted in advance of a status conference before Judge Gergel scheduled for August 15, lawyers representing plaintiffs and Pfizer provided an update on the progress of discovery into common issues in the litigation, as well as information on the mounting lawsuits pending in the Lipitor MDL and various state courts nationwide.
The report includes an update on Pfizer’s production of custodial files and clinical trial materials, which may contain information relevant to all cases. In addition to the production of fact sheets from each plaintiff who has filed a cases, the parties have also begun working to schedule depositions of plaintiffs that are part of the pool of cases eligible for the first trial dates.
These early trials are not expected to begin until at least next summer. Although the outcomes of any bellwether cases are not binding on any other lawsuits, the process of preparing and presenting cases to juries is designed to help facilitate negotiations to reach a Lipitor settlement agreement that may avoid the needs for hundreds of individual trials to be scheduled throughout the country.
All of the lawsuits involve similar allegations that Pfizer put their desire for profits before consumer safety by aggressively marketing the blockbuster cholesterol drug while withholding information from consumers and the medical community about the risk of changes to blood glucose levels.
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 lawyers 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.