Actos drugmakers must pay man with bladder cancer $1.5 million in compensatory damages, $9 billion in punitive damages, jury says

by Charles Miller

Terrence Allen is one of thousands of people who have filed claims against the drug companies behind the diabetes drug Actos. Mr. Allen has bladder cancer and says Actos is to blame. Allen sued Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. and Eli Lilly & Co. alleging that company executives ignored or downplayed concerns about the drug’s cancer-causing potential and misled regulators about its risks to protect billions in sales. Allen alleged that Takeda didn’t provide a specific warning about the link between Actos and cancer of the bladder until seven years after the association was clear.

Allen’s case was recently tried to a jury in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Rebecca Doherty in Louisiana. Almost 3,000 federal lawsuits regarding Actos from around the country have been consolidated before Judge Doherty for pretrial purposes.

The jury found that Takeda and Eli Lilly failed to provide adequate warnings about Actos and awarded $1.5 million in compensatory damages to Allen. Jurors also found that Takeda and Lilly executives “acted with wanton and reckless disregard” for patients’ safety in their handling of the drug and that punitive damages were justified against the companies. The jury ordered Takeda to pay $6 billion and Eli Lilly to pay $3 billion in punitive damages.

Takeda is Asia’s largest drugmaker. For several years, Eli Lilly served as Takeda’s U.S. partner in selling and marketing the drug. Takeda reportedly agreed to reimburse Lilly for any legal liability related to Actos. Thus, Takeda may be responsible for the full amount of any final judgment in Allen’s case.

Significantly, Allen and other Actos plaintiffs have alleged that Takeda officials intentionally destroyed documents about the development, marking and sales of Actos. The files of 46 former and current Takedo employees, including those of top executives in Japan and U.S. sales representatives, are missing. Judge Doherty penalized Takeda for failing to properly protect the Actos documents. The court notes that “[t]he breadth of Takeda leadership whose files have been lost, deleted or destroyed is, in and of itself, disturbing.” The judge instructed the jury in Allen’s trial that they could infer that the missing files may have supported Allen’s claims that the company wrongfully hid health risks regarding Actos.

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by Charles Miller

Charles Miller is a licensed attorney and a partner at Heygood, Orr & Pearson. Charles focuses his practice on areas of complex commercial litigation and personal injury litigation.