A federal jury in Lafayette, La., ordered Takeda Pharmaceutical Co., based in Osaka, Japan, and its partner, Eli Lilly & Co, based in Indianapolis, Ind., to pay a combined $9 billion in punitive damages. The jury determined the drug makers hid cancer risks associated with their Actos diabetes medicine from the public. Actos has been linked to the development of bladder cancer. This was the first federal trial in this litigation. Co-lead counsels Paul J. Pennock of Weitz & Luxenberg PC and Richard J. Arsenault of Neblett Beard & Arsenault represented former Actos user Terrence Allen and his wife, Susan, in the lawsuit. The Plaintiffs also were represented by Mark Lanier of the Lanier Law Firm in Houston, Texas, who was the lead attorney during the trial. Mr. Allen developed bladder cancer after using Actos. The jury also awarded the Allens $1.5 million in compensatory damages. Of the punitive damages, Takeda was ordered to pay $6 billion, while Lilly will pay $3 billion.

“Thousands of people have bladder cancer as a result of the egregious conduct of these drug companies regarding Actos,” said Beasley Allen lawyer Andy Birchfield, who is head of the firm’s Mass Torts section. “As long as potential drug sales are wildly lucrative, companies will face the temptation to ignore or hide serious safety concerns. This verdict sends a clear message for companies to beware; there is accountability in the courts.” Birchfield was appointed to the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee (PSC) by U.S. District Judge Rebecca Doherty, who is in charge of the Actos multidistrict litigation (MDL). This committee heads up the Actos MDL and he assisted in the preparations for the Allen trial.

Actos lawsuits filed in federal courts have been consolidated under Judge Doherty in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana. Lawsuits claim Takeda and Eli Lilly misrepresented and omitted information it held about Actos and “actively concealed its risks.” The lawsuits also claim Plaintiffs were not adequately warned about Actos risks and could have taken several safer alternative drugs had they known about the health risks posed by Actos.

Actos is prescribed to treat Type 2 diabetes. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began a review of Actos and cancer risk in September 2010, when the agency issued a safety announcement suggesting a potential risk with Actos. The FDA reported in its data summary that the risk of bladder cancer increased with increasing dose and duration of Actos use, reaching statistical significance after 24 months of exposure. The FDA later updated its safety label for Actos to state that the use of the drug for more than one year may be associated with an increased risk of bladder cancer. In June 2011, the FDA issued a warning for Actos.


Bloomberg News

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