A set of women claiming Pfizer’s blockbuster statin Lipitor caused their diabetes have the right to go back to California state court to make their case, thanks to a Tuesday ruling by a federal judge.
In a 21-page order, U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney said that too few of the plaintiffs wanted to pursue joint litigation. “Since less than 100 plaintiffs have proposed that their cases be tried jointly,” his court didn’t have jurisdiction, the judge wrote.
Pfizer faces more than 100 cases originally filed in California state court, according to Judge Carney, on behalf of thousands of women who say Lipitor caused them to develop Type 2 diabetes.
At last count, Carney said, plaintiffs have filed more than 140 lawsuits involving 4,800 plaintiffs.
The drugmaker began removing the cases to federal court back in 2014 and requested the matter be consolidated in a Multi-District Litigation (MDL) court in South Carolina. A group of plaintiffs filed a motion to send the cases back to state court and prevailed in that effort with Tuesday’s decision.
A Pfizer spokesperson said that in previous orders from January and February of this year, Judge Richard M. Gergel in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina had granted a motion for "summary judgment in the MDL and dismissed all cases."
According to Pfizer, Judge Gergel found "plaintiffs had no reliable expert testimony to prove that Lipitor at any dose caused any plaintiff’s diabetes and no reliable expert testimony to prove that Lipitor at the 10, 20, or 40 mg dose can cause diabetes."
Pfizer is "disappointed" with the new ruling and will evaluate its legal options, the spokesperson said.
"We deny plaintiffs’ claim that Lipitor causes diabetes, stand by our medicine and intend to vigorously defend it against these allegations," a spokesperson said.
A statin, Pfizer’s Lipitor remains a key sales engine for the New York drugmaker, though it went off patent in the U.S. more than five years ago. It turned in $1.7 billion in sales around the world last year. The drug is Pfizer’s biggest all-time seller and among the top-selling meds of all time, but saw sales decline after it faced generic competition in late 2011.
That year, the med turned in $9.58 billion in global sales, a figure that shrank to $3.95 billion for 2012.
The company previously faced a whistleblower lawsuit from a former executive alleging questionable sales tactics for Lipitor, but a judge eventually tossed that complaint.