January 29, 2015 — The first so-called “bellwether” trial involving a plaintiff who was diagnosed with diabetes after taking Lipitor has been scheduled for October 2015.
Lipitor is a cholesterol-lowering statin manufactured by Pfizer. In 2012, the FDA ordered Pfizer to update the label to warn that it could influence blood-sugar levels and potentially increase a patient’s risk of type-2 diabetes.
A study published in JAMA in 2012 found that post-menopausal women on statins were 50% more likely to develop type-2 diabetes than women who did not use statins.
Pfizer is now facing over 1,600 federal lawsuits accusing them of downplaying this risk information and failing to warn about the risk of diabetes.
Since February 2014, the lawsuits have been overseen by U.S. District Judge Richard M. Gergel in federal court in South Carolina. The cases are centralized in a Multi-District Litigation (MDL No 2502), which is similar to a class action but each lawsuit remains independent.
Certain cases will be selected for “bellwether” trials because they are similar to other cases in the MDL. Lawyers use these trials to test a jury’s response to evidence.
The outcome of the trial typically pushes lawyers to resolve the rest of the cases — often with a settlement if they jury decided to award compensation. In general, this process is more convenient and cost-effective than settling the litigation en masse or hearing every single case.