Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. (4502) persuaded a judge to throw out a $6.5 million jury verdict over its Actos diabetes drug because lawyers for a California man didn’t produce sufficient evidence to show his cancer was caused by the medication.
Judge Kenneth Freeman in state court in Los Angeles ruled today Jack Cooper’s attorneys weren’t able to properly link the former telephone-company worker’s bladder cancer to his Actos use and jurors shouldn’t have had a chance to return their verdict against Asia’s largest drugmaker. It was the first of more than 3,000 lawsuits over the medication to go to trial.
Testimony from a doctor who concluded Cooper’s Actos use caused his bladder cancer turned out to be “inherently unreliable” and that justified throwing the case out, Freedman said in a 27-page ruling.
The verdict came almost three months after Takeda won U.S. regulatory approval for Nesina, a diabetes drug to replace Actos, which lost patent protection last year. Actos sales peaked in the year ended March 2011 at $4.5 billion, or 27 percent of Takeda’s revenue at the time, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
“We agree with the court’s finding that Mr. Cooper’s allegations were not supported by the evidence,” Kenneth Greisman, general counsel for Takeda’s U.S. unit, said in a telephone interview today.
Takeda faces more than 3,000 suits alleging Actos caused bladder cancer or other ailments, according to court records. Cooper’s suit was among those gathered before Freeman in Los Angeles. Other cases are in state court in Illinois.
More than 1,200 suits have been consolidated before a federal judge in Louisiana for pretrial information exchanges. The first federal case is set for trial in January, according to court filings.
Michael Miller, one of Cooper’s lawyers, said he would appeal Freeman’s post-verdict ruling throwing out the case.
“We believe the court has misinterpreted the law and feel confident the decision will be reversed,” Miller said in a telephone interview.
Former Actos users contend in court filings Takeda researchers ignored or downplayed concerns about the drug’s cancer-causing potential before it went on sale in the U.S. in 1999, and misled U.S. regulators about the medicine’s risks.
Cooper, 79, took the drug for more than four years before being diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2011. He worked as a cable splicer for Pacific Bell telephone, according to court filings.
Takeda’s lawyers argued during the almost two-month trial that Cooper was more likely to develop bladder cancer because he was an elderly male former smoker who suffered from diabetes. That placed him in high-risk categories for the disease regardless of his Actos use, the company’s attorneys told jurors.
Takeda is scheduled to face an Actos trial in January that is part of the consolidation of cases before a federal judge in Louisiana, according to court filings.
Mark Lanier, who won a $253 million verdict against Merck in 2005 in the first trial over the company’s withdrawn Vioxx painkiller, is slated to try the case for plaintiff Ida St. John.
The Los Angeles case is Cooper v. Takeda Pharmaceuticals America Inc., CGC-12-518535, California Superior Court (Los Angeles).
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