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50+ Lipitor Diabetes Lawsuits May be Centralized as MDL

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) issued a Notice of Hearing Session indicating the panel will reconsider the pretrial coordination of 56 Lipitor diabetes lawsuits pending in federal courts throughout the nation. The product liability complaints were brought by women who allege the prescription medication caused them to develop Type 2 diabetes, and that manufacturer Pfizer failed to warn consumers of such dangerous risks. According to the notice, the JPML will hear oral arguments for the consolidation of cases on January 30, 2014.

Lipitor, which is also available in the generic version known as atorvastatin, is the globe’s biggest selling prescription medicine with sales of over $130 billion. Statin drugs like Lipitor, Zocor and Crestor – while effective at lowering cholesterol levels and reducing heart disease risk – have been linked to a number of adverse health effects including memory loss, muscle damage, liver injury and diabetes.

More than 100 Lipitor diabetes lawsuits pending in the U.S.

In 2012, the FDA updated its warnings for all users of statin drugs, cautioning they may increase blood sugar levels and cause memory problems.

The statins affected in the FDA warning include:

  • Lipitor (atorvastatin)
  • Altoprev (lovastatin extended-release)
  • Crestor (rosuvastatin)
  • Lescol (fluvastatin)
  • Livalo (pitavastatin)
  • Mevacor (lovastatin)
  • Pravachol (pravastatin)
  • Zocor (simvastatin)

The agency cited research in which a small increased risk of diabetes was found in patients taking Lipitor. In its update, the FDA said that patients taking statins like Lipitor should have their blood glucose assessed after starting the medication, to monitor for early signs of diabetes.

However, Lipitor lawyer teams argue that Pfizer knew or should have been aware of diabetes risks long before the FDA update, as research linking statins to insulin resistance was conducted back in 2004. To date, more than 100 Lipitor cases have been brought by plaintiffs– the majority of whom are women – claiming they would have chosen an alternative medication had they known of the possible side effects.

If the JPML establishes multidistrict litigation for qualifying Lipitor diabetes claims, they will be tasked with identifying a suitable venue and judge who will oversee the pretrial proceedings and bellwether trials. The goal of MDL is to reduce burdens on the judicial system, by bringing together multiple cases that contain similar allegations and issues of fact. Each plaintiff retains the right to his or her own jury verdict or settlement.

JPML opposed early petition for Lipitor MDL

Plaintiffs filed a motion for a Lipitor MDL in July of this year, but the judicial panel denied the request, citing an inadequate number of lawsuits to merit coordinated litigation. Since last July, more patients have taken legal action against Pfizer, accusing the pharmaceutical giant of failure to warn, breach of warranties and negligence in the design and manufacture of Lipitor.

With an estimated 100 cases currently pending in court rooms, the MDL will hear oral arguments during a January 30 session in a New Orleans district courthouse.

Should MDL be established for Lipitor claims, both plaintiffs and defendants will share in the discovery process, thereby reducing inconsistent findings if cases proceeded in various courts across the country. Such mass litigation saves money, time and resources for all parties involved and may help facilitate settlement talks, should mediation be ordered.