A Louisiana federal judge has reduced the $9 billion punitive damages award against Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. and Eli Lilly & Co. over the diabetes drug Actos to $36.8 million. U.S. District Judge Rebecca Doherty said the jury “should bow” to the Constitution’s due process clause. She said the jury’s April verdict was not unreasonable, ruling that punitive damages in the case should be roughly 25 times the amount of compensatory damages and no more.
The companies, which jointly marketed the drug, were to split the payment of $1.5 million in actual damages to plaintiffs Terrence and Susan Allen. Judge Doherty’s ruling reduced the plaintiffs’ $6 billion damages award against Takeda to roughly $27.7 million and the $3 billion dollar award against Eli Lilly to $9.2 million. The total compensatory damages were previously reduced slightly to $1.3 million.
Judge Doherty said in her ruling that the punitive damages verdict was too disproportionately large to be constitutional, but she also stressed that she did not believe the jury was motivated by “passion or prejudice” in arriving at the verdict. Judge Doherty said in her ruling that the jury was merely following instructions to issue a verdict that would have a deterrent effect on such multibillion corporations. Judge Doherty wrote:
Within the context of this financial reality, and when repeatedly, fines, penalties and settlements calling for the payment of billions of dollars by these huge multi-national companies are a financial reality, it would be short-sighted not to recognize that corporations boasting sales of one product of almost $24 billion and a value of $40 billion are financially capable of simply absorbing losses that might seem large to the lay public, but are, in fact, small when compared to the profits made and degree of wealth involved.
Judge Doherty denied the drugmakers’ request for a new trial. Sales of Actos over the period relevant to the litigation amounted to $24 billion, according to the court’s opinion. The verdict sustained the plaintiffs’ claims that Actos manufacturer Takeda and its U.S.-based marketing partner Eli Lilly had concealed the risks of bladder cancer carried by the drug from physicians and consumers.
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