In September, pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca was granted extra time to settle more than 6,000 remaining lawsuits related to the drug Seroquel, and its potential link to diabetes in its users. The London based company has already settled nearly 26,000 cases that were pending against them, and say that they will continue to work with a mediator to settle the remaining law suits as soon as possible. With the decision that came in September from the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to not allow cases that had previously been consolidated in Florida federal court to be spread out across the country, AstraZeneca gained valuable time to continue private negotiations and settle away from the bench. A federal judge said the decision was made due to fears that allowing the cases to be taken elsewhere could damage negotiation attempts.
Seroquel, (quetiapine fumarate) was released for use as treatment for depressive disorders as well as for treatment of the depressive phase of bipolar disorders and Schizophrenia. Seroquel is also used as a combination therapy with other antidepressant medications and has been widely popular and heavily prescribed over the last several years. The second-highest selling drug for AstraZeneca, Seroquel raked in more than $4.9 billion last year–falling short only to the stomach medication Nexium, causing Astra Zeneca to place a close second behind the London powerhouse GlaxoSmithKline in overall sales.
The link between Seroquel and its link to diabetes is not fully understood. Many medications that are used to treat psychological disorders can have symptoms that vary from mild to severe. Some of those symptoms can include nausea, sleep disturbances and day time drowsiness– but can progress to the development of diseases that can become life-threatening–like diabetes. Diabetes is a condition that causes the body to have an improper use of the hormone insulin either by not producing insulin or by cells in the body becoming resistant to it over time. This results in abnormally high blood sugar levels because insulin cannot be utilized to bring it down. Over time, high blood sugar levels that are not treated can lead to blindness, amputation and loss of feeling in the extremities. Nerve damage is common and can result in paralyzation of the intestines which can warrant the need for surgery and even colostomy placement. Nerve death in the extremities–such as the feet can result in amputation of limbs as necessary as tissues die.
AstraZeneca has been settling suits for years related to Seroquel and a myriad of claims regarding its side effects. Including the month of August when the company paid out $198 million dollars in restitution to settle over 17,000 individual lawsuits–but only averaging a tiny payout of $11,000 each. As far back as 2008, the FDA made changes to require manufacturers of certain psychiatric medications to change label wording and warnings regarding the use of their products in conjunction with certain other conditions–warning that death could result from their use.
The fight for litigants against this pharmaceutical giant will continue on. Lawyers representing the remaining clients who are yet to see any settlement money feel that despite the courtÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s decision to delay further hearings and AstraZenecaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s strides to settle the lawsuits for so little, they still will not be settled.
The small monetary amounts being offered simply wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t cover the damages–and that this isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t over yet.