As thousands of Lipitor diabetes lawsuits continue to move forward through the federal court system, Pfizer is attempting to have all cases brought on behalf of women living in Texas dismissed.
The drug maker claims that Texas tort reform laws prevent residents of the state from bringing a claim for failure to adequately warn about the risk of diabetes from Lipitor side effects.
Pfizer currently faces more than 2,000 product liability lawsuits over Lipitor, which all involve similar allegations that the drug maker withheld important information about the diabetes risk from consumers and the medical community.
Women diagnosed with the disease allege that Pfizer knew or should have known about the link between Lipitor and diabetes for years, and that they may have avoided the disease if proper warnings had been provided, by choosing not to use the cholesterol drug or by closely monitoring blood glucose levels during treatment.
In a motion (PDF) filed on October 3, Pfizer seeks to dismiss at least 10 Lipitor lawsuits filed by women residing in Texas, maintaining that the laws of that state prevents such claims when the drug’s warning label was approved by the FDA.
Pfizer claims that under Texas law, even if the warning label is missing vital information affecting patient safety or fails to provide adequate information to make an informed decision, such claims are barred.
Plaintiffs maintain that the warning label was inadequate and insufficient, as diabetes is not mentioned as a potential side effect, and information added in 2012 about the risk of changes to blood glucose levels were vague, unclear and uninformative.
In the motion to dismiss, Pfizer argues that in order to get around the Texas law, plaintiffs would have to prove that the drug maker withheld or misrepresented information to the FDA that had a material effect on the drug’s performance; that the company sold the drug after the FDA ordered a Lipitor recall; that Pfizer promoted Lipitor for off-label uses; or that the company bribed an FDA official to accept an inadequate warning label.
The motion was filed before U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel, who is presiding over all cases filed throughout the federal court system, where most of the Lipitor litigation is pending.
Cases filed in U.S. District Courts nationwide are currently centralized before Judge Gergel in the District of South Carolina as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation. The coordinated handling of the cases is designed to reduce duplicative discovery, avoid conflicting ruling from different judges and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.
A small group of cases pending before Judge Gergel are currently being prepared for early trial dates in the Lipitor MDL. Known as “bellwether” trials, these cases are designed to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that may be offered throughout the litigation.
The first federal trial dates are expected to begin in October 2015. While the outcomes of these bellwether trials are not binding in other cases, they may influence any eventual Lipitor diabetes settlements reached between the parties.
In seeking to dismiss the cases filed by women from Texas, Pfizer is attempting to slowly chip away at the mounting number of Lipitor lawsuits facing the company.