Jury selection begins today in a New Jersey state courthouse, where the drugmaker will defend against a lawsuit brought by a Ted Baker, a Vietnam War vet, who claims the Seroquel antipsychotic causes diabetes and that risks weren't properly conveyed to physicians or patients, Bloomberg News reports. His case is the first to go to trial of about 26,000 such claims over Seroquel.
AstraZeneca will try to persuade the jury that Seroquel didn’t contribute to Baker’s diabetes and health risks weren't hidden, Dan Carlat, a psychiatrist at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston who writes about antipsychotics drugs, tells the news service. "The question is whether the links between Seroquel and diabetes are strong enough to convince a jury the drug is at fault."
Seroquel, with sales of $4.9 billion last year, is the company’s second-biggest seller after the ulcer treatment Nexium. "Any time you go to trial, there’s risk, we worry,” AstraZeneca chief executive Dave Brennan tells Bloomberg. "We acted very responsibly. Our label adequately and appropriately reflected everything we knew about the drug.”
If juries rule against AstraZeneca and hand out big punitive damages, the drugmaker may be looking at as much as $1 billion in verdicts, according to Navid Malik, an analyst at Matrix Corporate Capital in London. “But I think the risk is very low,” Malik he tells Bloomberg. “It’s going to be a long and drawn-out road for patients who are trying to see this thing proven, simply because I think diabetes is a much more complicated disease.”