Lipitor, the best-selling prescription drug of all time in the United States, has made over $130 billion for Pfizer Pharmaceuticals. But the tremendous success of Lipitor has not been without risk to the user. In 2012, the FDA made the decision to require that Pfizer change the label on Lipitor to include an increased risk of type-2 diabetes. This has caused some consumers of Lipitor, prior to the label change, to file suits against Pfizer Pharmaceuticals. These lawsuits have been filed under the premise that Pfizer was or should have been aware of the increased risk of type-2 diabetes and failed to warn doctors or patients regarding this risk, along with failing to truthfully represent the risks on Lipitor’s warning label.
Lipitor is classified as a statin, meaning that it blocks the production of cholesterol in the liver. The general reliability and lack of negative effects of Lipitor has been a major contributor towards its popularity and status as the most profitable pharmaceutical in the United States. However, warnings on Lipitor’s label include memory loss, muscle pain, kidney problems, and liver problems, especially for those who drink alcohol regularly. The increased risk of type-2 diabetes was not, however, originally listed on the warning label and presents the question of whether Pfizer knew about the increased risk of type-2 diabetes and if so, when?
Women face the brunt of the increased risk of type-2 diabetes posed by Lipitor and have represented a majority of the plaintiffs. Over 1,000 women have filed suit against Pfizer with the numbers continually increasing. With cases scheduled to begin trial by next July, Pfizer has vowed to fight the allegations and is not currently planning on a settlement. However, many pharmaceutical companies ultimately settle cases once the plaintiffs present adequate proof and information. Past settlements by pharmaceutical companies include AstraZeneca settling for $647 million for damages caused by its product Seroquel and Bayer settling for $1 billion for damages caused by its product Baycol, a statin similar to Lipitor.
Prospective plaintiffs against Pfizer will ultimately face issues as to what degree Lipitor increased the risk of type-2 diabetes in respective users and whether the risk of type-2 diabetes was negligible in comparison to the benefits Lipitor provided to these users. If the plaintiff are able to prove that there was a significantly increased risk of type-2 diabetes and that Pfizer was, or should have been, aware of this increased risk, then they will have a strong case against pharmaceutical company.. The upcoming litigation will shine light on these issues. The bellwether cases, used to determine the general strength of the allegations concerning the plaintiff’s cases, will begin in July of 2015 before U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel.
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