Judge orders GSK to mediation in Avandia suits

A U.S. judge is twisting GlaxoSmithKline's arm. The drugmaker ($GSK), facing some 20,000 outstanding claims of injury from its controversial diabetes drug Avandia, has been ordered to mediation in one court, with 75 days to wrap up 85% of the cases consolidated there, Bloomberg reports.

The order from Judge Cynthia Rufe comes about a week after GSK said it was nearing a $3 billion settlement of federal probes into off-label marketing of Avandia and other drugs. Last year, the company agreed to pay $750 million to wrap up investigations into substandard manufacturing. The company has set aside billions to wrap up these longstanding legal issues.

It's not clear at this point how many lawsuits are subject to the mediation order. But in appointing Patrick Juneau to mediate the Avandia cases, Judge Rufe said if the mediation deadline isn't met, she'll pool 100 of the oldest lawsuits and push for trial within 60 days. The company was originally expected to defend the first trials this month. Other cases in California and New Mexico have been postponed until next year.

GSK already agreed to pay $700 million to settle more than 10,000 Avandia-related patient lawsuits, Bloomberg says. The mediation could dispense with a lot more. "GSK welcomes the court's mediation order and looks forward to constructive discussions with the special master," GSK spokeswoman Bernadette King told Bloomberg.

- read the Bloomberg coverage