Lipitor Lawsuits Involving Over 3,000 Women to be Transferred to MDL

The number of women nationwide who are pursuing Lipitor lawsuits after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes continues to mount, with thousands of cases being transferred into the multidistrict litigation (MDL) established for cases filed throughout the federal court system.

Less than six months ago, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) established coordinated proceedings for all product liability lawsuits filed against Pfizer over failure to warn about the side effects of Lipitor.

The cases have been centralized before U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel in the District of South Carolina to reduce duplicative discovery, avoid conflicting rulings from different judges and to serve the convenience of the witnesses, parties and courts as the litigation continues to grow.

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According to the latest case list (PDF) provided by the U.S. JPML, there were already more than 700 cases that have been transferred into Lipitor MDL as of May 15. However, that number is rapidly growing and will soon include claims involving several thousand women.

In advance of a conference scheduled for today before Judge Gergel, a status report (PDF) was submitted by the parties that indicates an additional 134 Lipitor cases involving approximately 3,000 different plaintiffs will be transferred into the MDL in the coming weeks.

All of the complaints involve similar claims that Pfizer’s blockbuster cholesterol drug caused otherwise healthy women to develop type 2 diabetes, alleging that the drug maker knew about the link between Lipitor and diabetes for years, but withheld information from consumers and the medical community.

Earlier this month, Judge Gergel approved a master Lipitor complaint in the MDL, which will allow future plaintiffs to file their case directly in the District of South Carolina using an approved short form complaint that adopts specific allegations. It is expected that this procedure will also contribute to a rapid increase in new cases being filed by women nationwide, with some estimates suggesting that more than 10,000 lawsuits may ultimately be filed.

In addition to cases pending in the federal Lipitor MDL, a number of cases have also been filed at the state court level. According to the status report submitted to Judge Gergel on June 6, there are cases pending in Missouri, West Virginia and New York state courts involving nearly 300 different plaintiffs.

Lipitor Diabetes Bellwether Trials

As part of the coordinated pretrial proceedings before Judge Gergel, it is expected that a small group of Lipitor diabetes lawsuits will be selected as bellwether cases, which will be prepared for early trial dates in the MDL to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that may be offered throughout the litigation.

Although the outcomes of these bellwether trials are not binding on other cases, they may facilitate negotiations to reach a Lipitor settlement agreement that avoids the needs for hundreds of individual trials to be scheduled throughout the country.

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.

If Pfizer fails to settle or otherwise resolve the Lipitor litigation following the bellwether trials, hundreds of individual lawsuits may be remanded back to U.S. District Courts throughout the country for separate trial dates.


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