January 6, 2017 — Thousands of lawsuits involving Pfizer’s cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor have been dismissed after a federal judge rejected evidence that it causes diabetes.
On January 3, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel granted Pfizer’s motion for summary judgement due to a lack of general causation.
“If Lipitor is not capable of causing diabetes, it follows that it is not the cause of diabetes in particular plaintiffs,” he wrote in an order (PDF) last year barring evidence that Lipitor doses under 80mg cause diabetes.
His decision wipes out every lawsuit filed before January 25, 2016, but newer lawsuits will also be dismissed unless they establish causation. Judge Gergel presides over nearly 2,800 Lipitor diabetes lawsuits in the District of South Carolina — Multi-District Litigation (MDL No. 2502).
In March 2016, Judge Gergel rejected testimony from three expert witnesses who said Lipitor doses under 80mg per day might cause diabetes. Two months later, Pfizer filed a motion for summary judgment in lawsuits involving lower doses due to a lack of evidence.
The FDA warned that Lipitor and other cholesterol-lowering statins might elevate blood-sugar levels and HbA1C — both risk-factors for diabetes — in February 2012. Just weeks earlier, a massive study by the Women’s Health Initiative found a 50% increased risk of diabetes for post-menopausal women on statins.
Lipitor doses range from 10mg to 80mg per day. Patients typically start at lower doses, increasing as needed over the years. There is not much evidence that the lowest dose of Lipitor can cause diabetes, but studies do suggest a dose-response relationship — higher doses over a longer period of time associated with higher rates of the side effect.
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