Lipitor Lawyers Set to Argue for Consolidation of Diabetes Lawsuits

A panel of federal judges will hear oral arguments tomorrow over whether all Lipitor diabetes lawsuits filed in U.S. District Courts throughout the country should be centralized before one judge as part of an MDL, or Multidistrict Litigation.  

A growing number of women have brought product liability lawsuits against Pfizer after developing diabetes following use of the popular cholesterol drug, alleging that the drug maker failed to adequately warn about the risk of diabetes from Lipitor side effects.

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation will hear arguments from Lipitor lawyers representing both plaintiffs and the drug maker during a July 25 hearing, which will be held at the Edward T. Gignoux Federal Courthouse in Portland, Maine.

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Following a motion filed by a group of plaintiffs in April, asking for the Lipitor diabetes MDL, Pfizer filed a response opposing the centralization of the litigation, arguing that there are not yet enough lawsuits filed to warrant consolidated proceedings. In addition, the drug maker argued that establishing an MDL would result in a wave of lawsuits filed by lawyers who may not otherwise be willing to litigation the claims.

Over the past three months, a steady stream of diabetes lawsuits over Lipitor have been brought and a number of other lawyers representing plaintiffs have filed responses urging the MDL panel to centralize the litigation, suggesting that hundreds, if not thousands, of cases will ultimately be filed in the coming months.

Plaintiffs maintain that establishing centralized proceedings in the federal court system is warranted and would reduce duplicative discovery across a large number of cases, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different judges and would serve the convenience of the witnesses, parties and the courts.

Lipitor Diabetes 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 a response (PDF) filed earlier this month in support of the creation of an MDL for Lipitor, one plaintiffs’ law firm reported that it has already received more than 2,000 inquiries from women throughout the United States diagnosed with type 2 diabetes following use of Lipitor. The firm estimates that they will be filing at least 500 of those cases in federal courts throughout the country, indicating that the women have strong claims against Pfizer.

Nearly identical allegations have been raised in all of the cases, arguing that Pfizer knew or should have known about the risk of type 2 diabetes from Lipitor for women, yet withheld this information from consumers or the medical community.

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.

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 the women who brought claims indicate that they decided to take the medication to improve their health and reduce their cholesterol levels, they now seek compensation for life-altering diabetes complications from Lipitor, which now require that they regularly monitor their blood glucose levels, follow a restrictive diabetic diet and take other medications to control their diabetes. Plaintiffs also claim that they now face an increased risk of hart disease, blindness, neuropathy, kidney disease and other health problem from diabetes.

The U.S. JPML is expected to issue an order within a few weeks after the July 25th hearing, determining whether consolidated proceedings will be established. If a Lipitor MDL is formed, the panel will also decide the most appropriate transfer venue for the litigation.


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