The case of Actos (Pioglitazone) Products Liability Litigation MDL No. 2299 (PDF) is part of the Multidistrict litigation system of United States (U.S.). When cases having a common question to be decided are scattered under different Districts of U.S. they may be consolidated and transferred to a single District for better results and effective justice delivery.
On December 29, 2011, the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation transferred 11 civil action(s) to the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana for coordinated or consolidated pretrial proceedings pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1407, assigned to the Honorable Rebecca F. Doherty. The case involves parties like Takeda Pharmaceutical Company and Eli Lilly and Company. These companies have been accused of hiding the fact that their Actos diabetes medicine has potential cancer causing risks.
Now Takeda Pharmaceutical and Eli Lilly have been ordered to pay a combined $9 billion in punitive damages after a federal court jury found they hid the cancer risks of their Actos diabetes medicine in the first U.S. trial of its kind.
Osaka, Japan-based Takeda was ordered to pay $6 billion by the jury yesterday in Lafayette, Louisiana. Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly, Takeda’s partner, was ordered to pay $3 billion. However, as per the terms of the agreement between Takeda and Eli Lilly, the former would indemnify the latter for any litigation costs arising due to the medicine.
However, according to legal experts, this award will probably be reduced because the U.S. Supreme Court has said punitive verdicts, imposed for bad conduct, must be proportional to the awards of compensatory, or actual, damages that underlie them. The court has said that in limited cases, punitive awards that amount to ten times a compensatory award would be acceptable. Of the 10 largest U.S. punitive verdicts previously awarded against corporations, all were either reversed or substantially reduced. None were paid at the amounts assessed by the juries. Takeda and Lilly officials have also confirmed that they would appeal against the jury’s verdict.
The jury earlier awarded $1.5 million in compensatory damages to former Actos user Terrence Allen, who blamed the drug for his bladder cancer. Allen alleged in his lawsuit that Takeda executives ignored or downplayed concerns about the drug’s cancer-causing potential and misled regulators about its risks to protect billions in sales. Takeda didn’t provide a specific warning about Actos’ cancer risks until 2011, seven years after experts said the bladder-cancer link became clear and 12 years after the drug went on the U.S. market.
However, what may be troublesome for Takeda is the fact that Takeda officials intentionally destroyed documents about the development, marking and sales of Actos. The company ditched files of 46 former and current employees, including those of top executives in Japan and U.S. sales representatives. Because Takeda failed to properly protect the Actos documents, Doherty penalized the company by instructing jurors they could infer that the files may have buttressed Allen’s claims the company wrongfully hid the medication’s health risks. “The breadth of Takeda leadership whose files have been lost, deleted or destroyed is, in and of itself, disturbing,” Doherty wrote in a January ruling that opened the door for jurors to hear about the destroyed documents.