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Pfizer denies liability in Lipitor lawsuits

Thursday August 14, 2014
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Pfizer has denied liability after an increase in lawsuits alleging the company was aware of a possible risk of type-2 diabetes from its popular anti-cholesterol drug Lipitor, according to Reuters.

The Food and Drug Administration warned in 2012 that Lipitor and other statins were linked to incidents of memory loss and a “small increased risk” of diabetes. Reuters’ review of federal court filings shows lawsuits by women who say taking Lipitor gave them type-2 diabetes rose from 56 to nearly 1,000 in the past five months. Attorneys for the plaintiffs say women have a higher risk of developing diabetes from Lipitor than men and gain fewer benefits from the drug, the news report stated. The lawsuits allege that although Pfizer knew about possible side effects of Lipitor, the pharmaceutical company failed to warn the public. The increase in lawsuits occurred after a federal judicial panel decision to consolidate all Lipitor diabetes lawsuits from around the country into a federal courtroom in Charleston, S.C., a decision Pfizer opposed., according to Reuters.

H. Blair Hahn, the lead lawyer representing the plaintiffs in federal court, said the women contracted diabetes from taking Lipitor and that women with diabetes have reduced life spans and qualities of life, according Reuters.

“We will ask a jury to decide what it’s worth to take five years of someone’s life,” Hahn said in the news report. He also said the nearly 1,000 cases filed so far represent 4,000 women, and the number of cases could ultimately reach 10,000 or more.

The first Lipitor trial is slated to take place in July 2015 and will be used to test the strength of the other cases, according to Reuters. If Pfizer is not found liable, remaining plaintiffs could decide to accept smaller settlements or drop their cases altogether. Pfizer also could decide to settle before any cases are tried to avoid potential negative exposure, the news report said. The company has said women who are prescribed Lipitor might have other conditions, such as high blood pressure or obesity, that might make them more prone to diabetes, according to Reuters.

“[The plaintiffs] have to show they were actually harmed by this agent,” Michael Green, an expert in mass torts at the Wake Forest University School of Law, said in the news report. “That might be hard.”

Bayer, which produced the statin Baycol, paid $1 billion in 2005 to settle about 3,000 lawsuits alleging the drug caused rhabdomyolysis, a disease that breaks down muscle tissue, the report stated. Baycol was pulled in 2001 after being linked to 31 deaths, according to Reuters.


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