Patients sue over drug's side effects

    The pharmaceutical company Astrazeneca has a massive legal task before it: battling 15,000 lawsuits over a drug that brings in billions of dollars.
    From WHYY’s health and science desk, Kerry Grens reports.

    The pharmaceutical company Astrazeneca has a massive legal task before it: battling 15,000 lawsuits over a drug that brings in billions of dollars.

    The anti-psychotic drug Seroquel carries a warning that it could be linked to diabetes. But thousands of former users claim the company didn’t properly disclose data on the side effects, and that contributed to them developing the disease. Jean Eggen is a law professor at Widener University. She says cases like these are a challenge to prove.

    Eggen: It would be insufficient for a plaintiff merely to come in and say that there is data showing that the exposure to this drug could cause diabetes in some persons. The plaintiffs have to go beyond that.

    What they have to do is prove the drug — and not other risk factors — caused the diabetes.

    One of the first cases is proceeding in Delaware, just weeks after the Supreme Court upheld rules allowing lawsuits on the safety of FDA approved drugs.

    Robert Field is a healthcare policy professor at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.

    Field: There are a lot of suits that have been waiting in the wings for the Supreme Court decision. And those will now go forward. And there will probably be a lot of new ones that will be brought that wouldn’t have been brought.

    A spokesperson for Astrazeneca has said the drug is safe and effective.

    The trial is scheduled to begin in Delaware in June.

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