According to court documents filed last week, AstraZeneca currently faces 8,787 Seroquel lawsuits that have been filed in federal and state courts, which allege that their antipsychotic medication led to personal injuries, such as pancreatitis and diabetes.
Seroquel (generic quetiapine fumarate) is an atypical antipsychotic medication which was approved by the FDA in 1997 for treatment of schizophrenia. It is also commonly used off-label for treatment of anxiety, obsessive dementia, compulsive disorders and autism.
Research has established that Seroquel side effects can increase the risk of weight gain, hyperglycemia and diabetes.
Other drugs in the same class of atypical antipsychotics, which include Zyprexa and Risperdal, have also been associated with these side effects, but the diabetes risk has been the highest in the case of Seroquel.
AstraZeneca indicates that they have been served with complaints involving over 13,000 plaintiff groups. As of August 27, 2008, about 5,841 Seroquel lawsuits have been filed in federal court involving 5,847 plaintiffs, and another 2,946 Seroquel cases have been file in various state courts involving 7,492 more plaintiff groups.
In federal court, the Seroquel litigation has been consolidated in an MDL, or Multidistrict Litigation, that is centralized in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida before Judge Anne Conway. Approximately 5,829 of the lawsuits are currently in the MDL, where they are being handled together for pretrial proceedings. If the cases do not resolve during pretrial litigation, the MDL procedures require that the cases be sent back to the court where they were filed for trial.
In an attempt to facilitate a resolution of the cases, Judge Conway has established a case management order which calls for the first Seroquel trials involving cases filed in Florida to begin in February 2009. A group of 12 cases have been selected, involving six cases designated and ranked by the Plaintiffs Steering Committee and six by the defendants. The Seroquel litigation will start with the trial of the top ranked case selected by the plaintiffs, and then trials will alternate back and forth until those cases have been tried.
Zyprexa litigation, which involved similar claims of diabetes and weight gain associated with the other type of atypical antipsychotic resolved earlier this year before the first individual injury trials began. Eli Lilly, who manufactures Zyprexa, paid about $1.2 billion in to settle about 30,000 individual Zyprexa lawsuits.