Women who have developed type II diabetes after taking Lipitor have filed lawsuits across the country from Florida to California. The lawsuits allege that Pfizer knew the true risk of diabetes associated with Lipitor – the most widely prescribed statin – and failed to warn doctors and patients of this risk. Instead of warning doctors that Lipitor could cause patients to develop type II diabetes, Pfizer heavily promoted Lipitor as a safe and effective way for women to lower their cholesterol.
Earlier this year, female plaintiffs sought to consolidate all federally-filed lawsuits under a procedure known as a multidistrict litigation (MDL). The MDL procedure was developed to efficiently handle complex litigation where a significant number of people have been injured by the same conduct or product, like Lipitor. The Judicial Panel of Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) initially ruled against creating a Lipitor MDL, because it believed that not enough lawsuits had been filed.
Now, months later and with many more lawsuits pending against Pfizer, the plaintiffs have again asked the JPML to coordinate the cases to an MDL. Specifically, plaintiffs assert that the increase in Lipitor lawsuits should prompt the JPML to consolidate all of the cases in front of one judge for pretrial proceedings.
“MDLs were created to promote judicial economy and prevent disparate rulings on generic pretrial matters. As more cases are filed, and more will be filed, it is only logical for the JPML to consolidate the Lipitor diabetes cases,” stated Laura Yaeger, an attorney with Morgan & Morgan’s Complex Litigation Group.
Pfizer opposes the formation of an MDL. It has argued that the JPML should deny the request because, despite the fact that Lipitor was the top-selling statin, very few cases have been filed. Thus, Pfizer’s logic is that few women will be harmed by Lipitor. This reasoning contradicts the findings of several peer-reviewed medical studies. For example, in May 2013, the British Medical Journal published a study showing that patients who took Lipitor had a 22% increase in the risk of developing new-onset diabetes.
Further, in 2012 the FDA required Pfizer to add new warnings for Lipitor. The FDA requested that Pfizer update the labeling on Lipitor to warn patients that the drug has been linked to increased blood sugar levels and an increased risk of developing type II diabetes.
According to Reuters, Lipitor is the world’s best-selling prescription drug of all time, with cumulative sales in excess of $130 billion.