The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) has agreed to reconsider whether to consolidate and centralize all Lipitor lawsuits filed throughout the federal court system by women diagnosed with diabetes after taking the cholesterol drug, scheduling oral arguments for January 30.
There are currently more than 100 product liability lawsuits pending against Pfizer in the federal court system, which all allege that the drug maker failed to adequately warn about the risk of diabetes from Lipitor side effects.
Given the widespread use of Lipitor, which has generated more than $125 billion in sales since 1996, it is expected that thousands, or even tens of thousands, of complaints may ultimately be filed in the coming months and years as Lipitor lawyers continue to review cases for women nationwide.
In October 2013, plaintiffs filed a second motion to establish a Lipitor MDL, which would place all cases before one judge for coordinated pretrial proceedings. Such centralization is designed to reduce duplicative discovery across a large number of cases, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different judges and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.
The U.S. JPML denied a similar request to centralize all Lipitor diabetes lawsuits in July 2013, finding that there were an insufficient number of cases at that time to justify such proceedings. However, there has been a spike in the number of Lipitor complaints since that time, and the MDL panel has agreed to hear oral arguments once again during a hearing session set for January 30, 2014, at the U.S. Courthouse in New Orleans.
According to a Notice of Hearing Session (PDF) issued last week, the panel will consider centralization of at least 56 complaints pending in 18 different U.S. District Courts. However, there are probably close to another 100 complaints filed in recent weeks that are not reflected on the hearing notice.
Lipitor Diabetes Litigation
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. However, concerns have emerged in recent years about the increased risk of diabetes from Lipitor, especially among women taking the cholesterol medication as a preventive means to improve their overall health.
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 dating 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.
If the U.S. JPML agrees to establish the centralized proceedings at this time, they will determine the most appropriate venue and judge to coordinate discovery and early “bellwether” trials, which are designed to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that may be repeated throughout a number of cases.
Although Pfizer has opposed the creation of a Lipitor MDL, such coordinated management of the litigation may be beneficial in helping to promote Lipitor settlement agreements, resolving hundreds of nearly identical cases without the need for individual trials throughout the country.