U.S. District Judge Rebecca Doherty has rejected the attempt by Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. and Eli Lilly & Co. to get the combined $9 billion punitive-damage award returned by a jury thrown out. As you will recall, the verdict was returned in a case involving claims that the drugmakers hid the cancer risks of their Actos diabetes medicine. Judge Doherty ruled that jurors properly considered evidence showing officials of Osaka, Japan-based Takeda and Indianapolis-based Lilly knew Actos was linked to bladder cancer and failed to properly warn patients and doctors before assessing damages in the case.
The judge’s decision didn’t resolve a defense request for a new trial in Terrence Allen’s case, which was the first federal trial over claims that Actos causes bladder cancer. The verdict is the second-largest in the U.S. in 2014, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Judge Doherty said in her 101-page decision:
The jury acted within its role and discretion to attach whatever weight and make whatever reasonable inference it deemed appropriate when assessing the defendants’ conduct.
Actos sales peaked in the year ended March 2011 at $4.5 billion and accounted for 27 percent of Takeda’s revenue at the time. This is according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Actos has generated more than $16 billion in sales since its 1999 release. Takeda now faces generic competition from Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd.
Lilly served as Takeda’s U.S. partner in selling and marketing the drug for seven years starting in 1999. While that partnership ended in 2006, Lilly retained rights to sell Actos in parts of Asia and Europe, as well as in Canada and Mexico. Allen, the Plaintiff in the case, a former hardware-store manager from Attica, N.Y., developed bladder cancer after taking Actos for more than five years starting in 2006. He contended that executives at Takeda ignored or downplayed concerns about the drug’s cancer-causing potential and misled regulators about its risks to protect billions in sales
The jurors found that Takeda and Lilly acted with “wanton and reckless disregard” in marketing Actos and that the drugmakers should pay a combined $9 billion in punitive damages. It was the sixth-largest punitive award in U.S. history, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The jury had earlier awarded $1.5 million in compensatory damages to Allen. The jurors ordered Takeda to pay $6 billion in punitives with Lilly being responsible for the other $3 billion. Because of indemnity agreements between the two drugmakers, it appears that Takeda will wind up paying the full award. For more information on this subject contact Roger Smith, lawyers in our Mass Torts Section, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Roger.Smith@beasleyallen.com.
Sources: Claims Journal and Jeff Freely with Bloomberg News
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