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Settlements Reported in 20,000 Avandia Heart Attack Lawwsuits

Feb 2, 2012 | Parker Waichman LLP

GlaxoSmithKline has reportedly agreed to settle more than 20,000 Avandia heart attack lawsuits, according to a report from Bloomberg News.  The agreement to settle the Avandia lawsuits was reached in court-ordered mediation and comes just months after Glaxo said it would pay $3 billion to settle U.S. criminal and civil probes into whether it illegally marketed Avandia and other medications. 

Since November 2007, Avandia's U.S. label has included a black box warning detailing its association with heart attacks. The black box was added after Dr. Steven Nissen of the Cleveland Clinic published a study showing that patients taking Avandia had a 40 percent increase in the risk of cardiovascular disease. Since 2007, more evidence of Avandia's heart risks has accumulated. Last year, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) placed severe restrictions on sales of Avandia, after determining its heart risks outweighed its benefits.

The controversy surrounding Avandia sparked thousands of product liability lawsuits.  Previously, Glaxo had agreed to pay over $700 million to settle over 15,000 patient claims that Avandia caused heart attacks and strokes.  In November, U.S. District Judge Cynthia Rufe appointed a mediator to preside over settlement negotiations for an unspecified number of Avandia cases that were consolidated before her in Philadelphia, and imposed a deadline for settling 75 percent of cases.  More than 2,500 cases are pending before Judge Rufe, Bloomberg said, while others have been filed in state courts around the country.

Now, a plaintiffs' attorney involved in that litigation has told Bloomberg that Glaxo has reached an agreement to settle 20,000 Avandia lawsuits.  However, it is still unclear if enough cases have been settled to meet the deadline.  If Judge Rufe's directive isn't been met by the deadline, she's promised to start scheduling cases for trial.

In a statement emailed to Bloomberg yesterday, a Glaxo spokesperson said the most-recent settlements of Avandia patients’ suits “are covered by existing provisions and those payments will be funded through existing cash resources.”

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