Lipitor Lawsuit Filings Spike After Renewed MDL Request

Since a new request was filed earlier this month seeking to consolidate and centralize all federal Lipitor lawsuits involving women diagnosed with diabetes, the number of product liability complaints filed against Pfizer over their popular cholesterol drug has more than doubled.

Over the past two weeks, roughly 70 additional complaints have been filed in U.S District Courts throughout the country involving allegations that Pfizer failed to adequately warn about the risk of diabetes from side effects of Lipitor.

These cases have all come after a request was filed on October 10, asking the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to establish coordinated pretrial proceedings for the Lipitor litigation. Plaintiffs requested that cases filed throughout the federal court system be centralized before one judge to reduce duplicative discovery, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.

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The U.S. JPML previously rejected a request to establish a Lipitor MDL earlier this year, at which time there were only 24 cases pending nationwide. Following a hearing in July, the original request was denied because the Panel indicated an insufficient number of cases had been brought to justify the formal consolidation of the litigation.

By the time the renewed motion was filed two weeks ago, there were 60 Lipitor lawsuits filed in about 20 different U.S. District Courts nationwide. However, since then, that number appears to have more than doubled, and many Lipitor lawyers reviewing cases expect that thousands of complaints will ultimately be brought by women who allege that Pfizer withheld information about the risk of diabetes from Lipitor.

Lipitor Diabetes Warnings Prompted Lawsuits

Lipitor (atorvastatin) is one of the most widely used brand-name medications in the United States, with millions of Americans taking the medication to help lower cholesterol and improve their health. Before it became available as a generic in 2011, Pfizer generated more than $125 billion in Lipitor sales.

In one of the most recent complaints (PDF), which was filed by Peggy Chatman in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee on October 22, the plaintiff alleges that she is one of many women of healthy body weight who began taking Lipitor to lower bad cholesterol levels. However, Chatman indicates that she has now been left with type 2 diabetes after taking Lipitor, despite her healthy lifestyle.

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 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.

In nearly all of the lawsuits filed, 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.

Pfizer previously opposed the first attempt to establish a Lipitor MDL, and the drug maker is not expected to respond to this latest Motion until early next month. It is likely that the U.S. JPML will schedule oral arguments on the issue for an upcoming hearing session set to occur on December 5 in Las Vegas or January 30, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

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