About 20,000 former Avandia drug users have finally gotten the news they had been desperately waiting on. Their lawsuits were finally settled with a pharmaceutical giant. GlaxoSmithKline has agreed to settle the heart attack lawsuits brought by former users of its blockbuster Type 2 diabetes medication Avandia.
The lawsuits are among thousands more which claim GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) hid data showing the leading diabetes drug on the world market for several years increased the risk of heart attacks, stroke and death over other drugs.
Glaxo, the U.K.’s biggest drugmaker, agreed last month to resolve more than 20,000 cases alleging Avandia causes heart attacks, said Paul Kiesel, a lawyer for former users. The accord, reached in court-ordered mediation, included a case that was set for trial in state court in Los Angeles, he said.
A U.S. District Judge ordered attorneys for plaintiffs in Avandia lawsuits to meet with those representing GSK and an appointed independent mediator in hopes of reaching accord on the thousands of lawsuits. The first of what could be an endless stream of Avandia cases was about to go to trial in mid-January before Judge Cynthia Rufe ordered the mediation session, setting a 75-day deadline to reach settlement. She is presiding over more than 2,500 Avandia lawsuits filed in federal courts. Thousands more have been filed in state courts across the country and the first scheduled to go to trial was in a California court. That case has been resolved by the settlement. Rufe expected the mediation process to resolve more than 85 percent of the pending Avandia lawsuits.
“We are pleased the mediation has successfully resulted in the settlement of a significant number of the remaining cases,” Paul Kiesel, one of the lead lawyers for plaintiffs in the Avandia litigation, told Bloomberg.
GSK last November reached a deal with the U.S. government regarding illegal marketing of Avandia and other drugs. The settlement calls for the drugmaker to pay $3 billion to settle criminal and civil claims. That comes on top of $700 million that the company agreed to pay to settle more than 15,000 claims, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the accords. After the federal settlement, GSK faced pressure to settle the remaining Avandia claims.
The most-recent settlements of Avandia patients’ suits “are covered by existing provisions and those payments will be funded through existing cash resources,” said Bernadette King, a U.S.-based Glaxo spokeswoman.
This deal does not resolve all of the Avandia claims. Kiesel told Bloomberg it’s unclear whether the 20,000 cases is enough to meet that threshold.
And, if there aren’t enough settlements to meet the judge’s requirements, Rufe has said she will begin scheduling cases for trial. So far, no Avandia cases have been considered by a jury, Kiesel said.
GSK has agreed to cease marketing Avandia as a treatment for Type 2 diabetes, respecting the demands of the FDA and other regulatory agencies around the world which all believe the drug carries a risk of causing heart attacks and stroke more than other available treatments.
GSK has been the focus of a federal investigation since 2004 over alleged illegal marketing and suppression of negative evidence on the side effects of Avandia and several other of its top-selling drugs. Bloomberg cites a 2007 incident in which a University of North Carolina professor told U.S. officials he was pressured by GSK to mute his criticisms of Avandia, specifically related to its link to heart attacks and stroke, ever since the drug was first introduced in America in 1999.
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