March 13 (Bloomberg) -- The judge overseeing lawsuits alleging Takeda Pharmaceutical Co.’s Actos diabetes medicine causes cancer appointed 19 plaintiffs’ lawyers to manage litigation involving U.S. claims.
Takeda, Asia’s biggest drugmaker, may face as many as 10,000 claims that Actos causes bladder cancer after U.S. regulators found last year the drug was linked to the disease. Federal lawsuits against the drugmaker were consolidated before U.S. District Judge Rebecca Doherty in Lafayette, Louisiana, in December. The first hearing on the cases is set for March 22, according to court filings.
“The court has determined to effect the selection of lead counsel, liaison counsel and plaintiffs’ executive and steering committees before the March 22nd-23rd status conference,” Doherty said in a March 12 note posted on the court’s website.
The lawsuits claim patients who use Actos, a prescription drug approved to treat type 2 diabetes, face increased risks of developing bladder cancer. The plaintiffs also claim that Takeda and co-defendant Eli Lilly & Co., based in Indianapolis, withheld information about the risk and failed to provide adequate warnings.
Takeda pulled Actos, its top-selling drug, off the market in Germany and France last year after it was linked to an increased cancer risk. The medication had sales of 387.9 billion yen ($4.8 billion) last fiscal year, 27 percent of the Osaka, Japan-based company’s revenue.
“Given that litigation is pending, we can’t comment,” Jocelyn Gerst, a U.S.-based spokeswoman for Takeda, said in a telephone interview about the selection of the plaintiffs’ group.
Doherty named attorneys Richard Arsenault and Paul Pennock as lead plaintiffs’ counsel in the case and also appointed them to the executive committee, along with lawyers Mark Robinson and Hunter Shkolnik.
Arsenault, a products-liability lawyer based in Alexandria, Louisiana, served as one of the lead lawyers in consolidated cases filed against Merck & Co. over its Vioxx painkiller that resulted in a $4.85 billion settlement in November 2007.
Pennock, a New York-based attorney, was one of the lawyers leading the consolidated suits against AstraZeneca Plc over its Seroquel antipsychotic drug. The London-based drugmaker agreed last year to pay a total of about $350 million to resolve patients’ claims that the drug caused diabetes.
The Los Angeles-based Robinson, who has won multimillion-dollar jury awards against carmakers such as Ford Motor Co., is a co-lead counsel in sudden-acceleration lawsuits against Toyota Motor Corp.
Shkolnik, based in New York City, served as a member of the plaintiffs’ steering committee in lawsuits against Medtronic Inc. over flawed heart defibrillators. The cases later settled for more than $114 million.
Other lawyers named to the plaintiffs’ steering committee in the Actos cases include Mark Lanier, a Texas-based lawyer who won the first jury award against Whitehouse Station, New Jersey-based Merck in the Vioxx litigation, and Chris Seeger, a New Jersey-based attorney who also won a verdict against Merck on behalf of Vioxx users.
The judge also named Andy Birchfield, an Alabama-based lawyer who helped negotiate the $4.85 billion Vioxx settlement, and Vance Andrus, a Lafayette-based lawyer who was one of the lead counsels in cases against GlaxoSmithKline Plc over its Avandia diabetes drug. The London-based drugmaker has agreed to pay more than $700 million to resolve claims that Avandia caused heart attacks and strokes in users.
The lawsuits are consolidated in In Re: Actos Products Liability Litigation, 11-2299, U.S. District Court, Western District of Louisiana (Lafayette).
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