The judge who is overseeing all of the federal Seroquel suits, which were filed by former users of the antipsychotic who developed diabetes and other injuries, is recommending that as many as 6,000 cases be sent back to the districts where they were originally filed for trial. Lawyers for both sides have also been ordered to meet with a mediator to see if there is any possibility for a Seroquel settlement.
During a hearing earlier this week, U.S. District Judge Anne Conway indicated that she will ask the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to return the cases to courts throughout the country for thousands of individual trials. The suits are currently consolidated before Judge Conway for pretrial proceedings as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.
AstraZeneca currently faces more than 14,000 lawsuits against Seroquel, which all contain similar allegations that the drug maker failed to adequately warn users about potential side effects that may increase the risk of diabetes, weight gain, hyperglycemia and a rare movement disorder known as tardive dyskinesia.
To date, AstraZeneca has refused to settle Seroquel cases, indicating that they will defend all lawsuits. However, internal documents produced during the litigation suggest that the drug maker was aware of the potential Seroquel side effects and continued to promote the drug as weight-neutral for years after clinical evidence demonstrated significant problems that could lead to diabetes.
Judge Conway has ordered AstraZeneca representatives and plaintiffs’ lawyers to meet with a mediator to discuss the possibility of a settlement for Seroquel cases. AstraZeneca has already spent $623 million defending the suits, including the federal litigation and thousands of other cases pending in state courts throughout the country.
Seroquel (quetiapine fumarate) is an atypical-antipsychotic that is a top selling drug for AstraZeneca, generating nearly $5 billion a year in sales. Approved by the FDA in 1997 for the treatment of schizophrenia, it is also commonly used off-label for treatment of anxiety, obsessive dementia, compulsive disorders and autism. Seroquel has been used by more than 19 million people worldwide.
AstraZeneca lawyers had requested that Judge Conway send only about 60 cases back to their home districts in order to serve as test cases, so that the parties can get an idea of what juries think about the cases. Although the judge refused that request, there are 54 cases in Florida and Alabama that are almost ready to go to trial. Judge Conway indicates that she will ask other judges across the country to wait until she decides if those cases should go forward first.
Seroquel lawyers who represent plaintiffs in the litigation praised Conway’s decision, as the other 6,000 suits pending in the MDL are ready to go to trial. Returning the cases to the original districts for trial will help move the litigation towards a resolution and prevent AstraZeneca from continuing to delay justice for plaintiffs who have suffered serious and potentially life-threatening injuries. The Seroquel MDL was originally formed for the federal cases in 2006.