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Jury Orders Takeda and Eli Lilly to pay $9 Billion in Punitive Damages in Actos Cases

Filed April 8th, 2014 Laurie

Yesterday a federal court jury found that Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. and Eli Lilly & Co. buried cancer risks associated with their Type 2 diabetes drug, Actos, and ordered the companies to pay a combined $9 billion in punitive damages.

A jury in Lafayette, Louisiana ordered Takeda to pay $6 billion, and Eli Lilly was ordered to pay $3 billion, but Takeda may end up paying any final judgment in the case per an agreement between the two drug makers. A former lawyer for Terrence Allen, an Actos patient who was awarded $1.5 million in compensatory damages earlier by the same jury, said evidence presented in the trial showed the drug manufacturer agreed to indemnify Eli Lilly for any legal liability tied to Actos. Allen alleged Actos caused his bladder cancer, Bloomberg.com reported.

The $9 billion award is the seventh-largest in U.S. history, though it is likely to be reduced because the U.S. Supreme Court requires punitive damages to be proportional to the awards of compensatory damages that motivate them. All of the 10 largest U.S. punitive verdicts awarded in history against corporations were either reduced or significantly reduced, and none were paid at the amounts assessed by juries, Bloomberg.com reported.

U.S. District Judge Rebecca Doherty in Louisiana presided over Allen’s trial and upwards of 2,700 Actos cases have been consolidated before her for pretrial information exchanges, court documents obtained by Bloomberg.com show. Thousands more cases are also pending around the country, including 3,400 cases in Illinois courts alone. Lawyers for two women who claim Actos caused them bladder cancer are seeking more than $1 billion in compensatory and punitive damages, according to Bloomberg.com.

Allen and many alleged Actos victims say Takeda executives ignored or downplayed concerns about the potential risk between the drug and cancer, and misled regulators to protect its financial interests. It took the company until 2011 to provide a specific warning about the link, seven years after experts said the bladder-cancer link became clear, and 12 years after the drug went on the U.S. market, according to Bloomberg.com.

Takeda also intentionally destroyed documents about the development, marketing, and sales of Actos, including the files of 46 former and current employees, some of which either are or were top executives and sales representatives in Japan and the U.S., Bloomberg.com reported.

Jurors in Allen’s trial found that Takeda and Eli Lilly “acted with wanton and reckless disregard” for patients’ safety in their handling of Actos and that justified a punitive award against both drug makers, according to Bloomberg.com.

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