June 2, 2014 — Pfizer is facing over 700 lawsuits involving Lipitor (atorvastatin), according to a report (PDF) issued by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) on May 15.
The number of Lipitor lawsuits has grown rapidly since February 2014, when just 56 lawsuits were centralized before Judge Richard M. Gergel in the U.S. District Court for the South Carolina. On April 15, the JPML reported 464 Lipitor lawsuits in the litigation. This means over 200 additional lawsuits were filed in about a month.
Lipitor, a popular cholesterol-lowering medication, has been on the market since 1996 and is one of the best-selling drugs of all time. Unfortunately, it has been linked to an increased risk of diabetes. Plaintiffs allege that Pfizer did not adequately warn consumers or doctors about this risk.
In February 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ordered Pfizer to update the label to warn that it could affect blood-sugar levels and increase the risk of diabetes. In May 2013, the British Medical Journal published a study linking Lipitor to a 22% increased risk of new-onset diabetes.
The first lawsuits are set for trial beginning after July 1, 2015, according to a case management order. The so-called “bellwether” trials are representative cases that are used to determine how a jury will respond to evidence. The verdict from the trial is extrapolated to the remaining plaintiffs with similar injuries. This can expedite a settlement or other resolution of the litigation while avoiding dozens of trials.