Seroquel case won't hit trial after all

AstraZeneca has fended off a key Seroquel case. A Delaware judge ruled for the drugmaker, tossing out a lawsuit that claimed the antipsychotic med causes diabetes. The ruling hinged on expert testimony for the plaintiffs; AstraZeneca protested the endocrinologist's opinions, and the judge agreed. The lack of expert evidence then disqualified the entire case, the judge ruled.

The case had been scheduled for trial in June--and was to be the first to reach trial among thousands of patients' suits over the antipsychotic drug and its side effects. Nearly 10,000 total cases allege that AstraZeneca either hid or minimized evidence that Seroquel use might lead to diabetes. The Delaware ruling follows two other Seroquel dismissals, way back in January. Those dismissals are now being appealed, and the Delaware plaintiff's attorney says he'll probably appeal as well.

As you know, the Seroquel litigation has been a thorn in the company's side of late, as documents obtained through discovery hit the media--sometimes in dramatic fashion. All sorts of internal communication has been made public, to varying interpretations. Critics say AstraZeneca has been burying damaging data about the drug's metabolic side effects and promoting it for off-label use; the company says internal debate about side effects was just that--internal debate. FDA told ABC News that the agency updated Seroquel labeling as necessary, making side effect risks public, and that the company never fought those changes.

The company says the three dismissed suits show that there's not enough of a case to be made against Seroquel. "The evidence, looked at fully and fairly, just doesn't back up the allegations that Seroquel was responsible for the plaintiffs' alleged injuries," company spokesman Tony Jewell told BusinessWeek. "We intend to litigate the remaining cases on their individual merits." But plaintiffs' attorneys said they believe New York and New Jersey law will be kinder to their cases. For that we'll have to wait and see.

- read the story in the Delaware News-Journal 
- check out the BusinessWeek article
- see the ABC News piece