Jury Makes $9 Billion Award (Really!) in First Federal Actos Trial

A jury has awarded $9 billion in punitive damages against the pharmaceutical companies responsible for Actos, the diabetes drug which has been linked to bladder cancer. It is the largest award ever issued against a pharmaceutical company.

A federal jury in Lafayette, LA, made the award earlier this month against Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. and its U.S. marketing partner, Eli Lilly & Co. The jury awarded $6 billion in punitive damages against Takeda and $3 billion against Eli Lilly. It is the seventh-largest jury award in U.S. history.

The jury also awarded $1.5 million in compensatory damages to plaintiff Terrence Allen. Allen, a former New York hardware store manager, began taking Actos in 2006 and was diagnosed with bladder cancer 5 years later.

The FDA approved Actos for use in the U.S. in 1999. Allegations have since emerged that Takeda knew of Actos’s connection to bladder cancer even before FDA approval and was concealing that information from the public in 2006, when Allen began using the drug.

In 2011, the FDA announced that “the use of pioglitazone [Actos] for more than one year may be associated with an increased risk of bladder cancer.” Only then, under order of the FDA order, did Takeda add a warning to the Actos label about the increased risk of cancer.

Allen’s attorney, W. Mark Lanier, showed the jury emails in which Takeda executives described Actos as “vital to the company’s survival.” Also damaging to Takeda’s case was the discovery that Takeda officials had destroyed the files of 46 former and current employees connected to the development, marketing and sales of Actos.

The jury found that Takeda and Lilly “failed to adequately warn” the public of the increased risk of bladder cancer connected to Actos and “acted with wanton and reckless disregard” for patients’ safety.

Takeda and Lilly officials said they would appeal the jury award. The giant award is unlikely to stand. Last year juries in California and Maryland issued large awards against Takeda — a $6.5 million award in the California case and a $1.7 million award in the Maryland case. In both cases, the judges threw out the awards. In the 10 largest punitive verdicts awarded in the U.S. against corporations, all were subsequently reversed or substantially reduced.

The Allen case was the first federal bellwether trial among about 3,000 Actos lawsuits which have been consolidated before Judge Rebecca Doherty in the District Court of the Western District of Louisiana. In addition to those federal petitions, Takeda faces thousands of suits at the state level, including more than 3,400 cases in Illinois, where Takeda’s U.S. subsidiary is based in Deerfield.

A trial has been underway for more than a month in a state court in Las Vegas, NV, in which the plaintiff is seeking an award of $1 billion.

Actos is the brand name for pioglitazone, which is used to treat Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease.

For more information about Actos and your rights if you or a loved one have experienced harms or losses as a result of using Actos, see “Actos Linked to Bladder Cancer” on this website.