The U.S. District Judge presiding over all Lipitor diabetes lawsuit filed by women throughout the federal court system has scheduled a bellwether trial will begin in July 2016, involving use of an 80mg dose of the cholesterol drug.
There are currently about 3,000 product liability lawsuits filed against Pfizer by women who allege they developed diabetes from Lipitor side effects, indicating that the drug maker failed to adequately warn consumers or the medical community.
Given the similar allegations raised in the complaints, the cases pending throughout the federal court system are centralized before U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel in the District of South Carolina as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation, for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.
A series of two Lipitor bellwether trials were previously expected to begin this month, involving claims filed by Wilma Daniels and Juanita Hempstead. However, early last month, Judge Gergel vacated the start of those trials, due to pending briefing on the issue of whether the plaintiffs will be able to provide expert testimony on causation between diabetes and Lipitor at the dosages they were prescribed.
On December 22, three cases were selected for work-up involving use of Lipitor 80mg doses, as part of a separate bellwether pool. These cases involve women who were prescribed the highest recommended dose of the statin-based cholesterol drug, and some studies have suggested that the Lipitor diabetes risk is highest at 80mg doses.
According to a Pre-Trial Scheduling Order (PDF) issued by Judge Gergel on January 12, jury selections in the first bellwether trial from this pool of three cases will begin on July 12, 2016.
By March 9, the parties have each been directed to submit a short summary of each of the three Lipitor 80mg diabetes lawsuits, with a proposal for which case should be first to go before a jury. The Court will then select a first and second case for trial, after which additional case-specific discovery will be completed by April 15, and challenges to the admissibility of expert testimony will be considered by the court in May and June 2016.
Women who have filed diabetes lawsuits over Lipitor generally claim that they took the cholesterol drug as a preventative measure to help reduce cholesterol levels and the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. However, instead they have been left with type 2 diabetes, which requires adherence to a strict diet, regular monitoring of blood glucose levels and places them at increase risk of several serious health problems associated with diabetes.
While the outcomes of these early bellwether trials will not be binding on other claims, they are designed to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the litigation, potentially facilitating Lipitor diabetes settlements between Pfizer and women who have brought claims.