AstraZeneca won a summary judgment in a case involving Seroquel, its antispsychotic, after arguing that the plaintiff may have had diabetes in part because she was black. Plaintiffs in more than 10,000 cases allege that AZ failed to warn them that the drug causes weight gain and diabetes. This is the third ruling AZ has won; none of the cases have gone to trial. In a Delaware state court, plaintiff Nina Scaife's case was dismissed after Judge Joseph Slights III excluded testimony from her expert witness, who was to have asserted that Seroquel caused Scaife's diabetes.
In arguments prior to that ruling, AZ argued that Scaife's race was part of the cause of her diabetes. The company also noted she was obese and had a diet consisting entirely of fast food. AZ opened its motion with this statement:
Plaintiff Nina Scaife is a REDACTED African-American woman ... She testified that, until recently, her diet consisted of slurpies and donuts, fish and fries from McDonald's and Burger King and "[a] lot of Chinese food."(The motion, obtained from an AZ spokesperson, is redacted to protect patient confidentiality. You can download it here.) AZ argued in three other places in its motion that Scaife's race, not Seroquel, was a contributing factor to her health issues:
In addition REDACTED, Ms. Scaife had many other generally recognized risk factors for diabetes, including her African-American ethnicity ...
Plaintiff has long had "a combination of many factors that are risk factors for diabetes," including REDACTED, African-American ethnicity ...
Dr. Peck made no attempt to exclude ... ethnicity as more likely causes of her alleged diabetes.Of course, it is well accepted that diabetes is more prevalent in black Americans. Blacks are 1.6 times more likely to have diabetes than whites, according to the American Diabetes Association.
It is unusual, however, to see a drug company arguing so overtly that a person's race is a contributing cause of their health problems. The race angle was not the entirety of AZ's argument -- the rest of the motion argued that Scaife had never actually been diagnosed with diabetes, that she had many other risk factors for the disease including pre-existing obesity, and that doctors had failed to link her diabetes to her Seroquel dose.
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