A prominent warning on the Web site for the antidepressant and schizophrenia drug Seroquel XR states “High blood sugar and diabetes have been reported with Seroquel XR.” Reading the medication’s prescribing information reveals that diabetes and blood glucose spikes experienced by Seroquel users have sometimes proved fatal.
It seems logical, then, that Seroquel’s maker, AstraZeneca, would acknowledge that its brand name version of the drug quetiapine had caused some serious injuries and deaths. After accepting responsibility, AstraZeneca should be willing to settle provable claims that particular patients did not receive adequate warnings about Seroquel’s serious side effects or that patients received prescriptions for Seroquel because the company inappropriately marketed the drug.
This has not happened. According to a report in Business Week, AstraZeneca is currently requiring each of the more than 25,000 plaintiffs who have sued the company after allegedly being injured by the medication to go to court. Despite including warnings about Seroquel causing and worsening diabetes in prescribing information. AstraZeneca is taking the position that no plaintiffs had problems with blood sugar because they took Seroquel.
Ultimately, every one of the 25,000-plus cases will not be heard. Nor will plaintiffs or AstraZeneca probably win every case that does go to trial and results in a judgment. What will likely happen at some point is that plaintiffs will win enough cases that the company will settle the remaining outstanding claims. An extremely less-likely, but theoretically possible, outcome is that AstraZeneca will win enough cases that the remaining plaintiffs will withdraw their claims. The second result seems so unlikely because evidence that Seroquel causes potentially deadly diabetes and that Seroquel has been used inappropriately in large numbers of patients with the company’s knowledge and encouragement is not really debatable.
The issues individual Seroquel lawsuits will decide is how much harm particular patients suffered as a result of taking Seroquel and what compensation is reasonable for each degree of harm found. Negotiations between AstraZeneca and plaintiffs’ lawyers to work out these issues and reach a pretrial settlement have yielded no results, according to Business Week.
Every medication has some side effects, but sometimes those side effects outweigh any benefits for large numbers of patients. When that happen, patients injured by dangerous drugs have an undeniable right to receive compensation for their suffering. Drug manufacturers will often try to deny responsibility for the harm their products cause and keep lawsuits from coming to trial as long as possible. Those efforts usually just delay final judgments for or settlements with patients.