Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. executives hid the cancer risks of its diabetes medicine Actos to protect billions of dollars in sales, a lawyer for two women argued.
Takeda officials failed to warn consumers and doctors adequately about the company’s research that linked Actos to bladder cancer, Robert Eglet, a lawyer for Delores Cipriano and Bertha Triana, both of whom developed the disease after taking the drug, told jurors yesterday in closing arguments in a Las Vegas trial.
“A drug company is not allowed to put profits before patients’ safety,” Eglet said. “A drug company must tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about the risks of its products.”
Takeda, Asia’s largest drugmaker, faces thousands of Actos lawsuits in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials found in 2011 that an analysis of a company-sponsored study showed some Actos users faced an increased risk of developing bladder cancer or heart problems.
The Nevada state-court case will go to the jury as early as today, six weeks after a federal-court panel in Louisiana ordered Osaka, Japan-based Takeda and its partner Eli Lilly & Co. to pay more than $9 billion in damages to a former shopkeeper who developed bladder cancer after taking the drug. Takeda’s shares fell more than 5 percent in the wake of that award, which will probably be reduced. The company, which said it will appeal the Louisiana verdict, has prevailed in four other cases that went to trial.
Eglet asked the jury to award $35 million and $25 million, respectively, in compensatory damages to the two women. Should jurors award compensatory damages, they also need to decide whether Takeda is liable for punitive damages. If so, the amount of any punitive damages will be decided at a separate one-day phase of trial.
An Illinois jury last week found Takeda wasn’t liable for the bladder-cancer death of a man who took Actos.
Nevada District Court Judge Kerry Earley instructed the jurors before the start of closing statements that they could infer that evidence Takeda improperly destroyed may have been unfavorable to the company.
The judge also told the jurors that they shouldn’t be prejudiced against the plaintiffs’ lawyers because of the many times they raised objections to lines of questioning by attorneys representing Takeda. The objections were prompted by continuous violations of her orders, Earley said.
Craig Thompson, a lawyer for Takeda, countered that the plaintiff’s lawyers had failed to prove that Actos was the cause of Cipriano’s and Triana’s bladder cancers.
“The central issue in this case is: did this medication cause this disease in these women,” Thompson said in his closing statement.
Thompson is scheduled to continue his closing today.
Actos sales peaked in the year ended March 2011 at $4.5 billion and accounted for 27 percent of Takeda’s revenue at the time, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Actos has generated more than $16 billion in sales since its 1999 release, according to court filings. Takeda now faces generic competition from Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd.
Last year, state juries in California and Maryland ordered Takeda to pay a total of $8.2 million in damages to former Actos users. Judges in both states threw out the verdicts. In December, state court jurors in Las Vegas rejected claims the company failed to properly warn consumers about the risks of Actos.
In April, jurors in Lafayette, Louisiana ruled Takeda should pay $6 billion and Lilly $3 billion in punitive damages over the companies’ handling of the diabetes drug. U.S. District Judge Rebecca Doherty hasn’t decided yet how much to chop out of those awards to Terrence Allen, a former hardware store manager who blamed the drug for his bladder cancer.
In the current Las Vegas case, 81-year-old Cipriano and 80-year-old Triana were diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2012 after taking the medication. Triana, a retired seamstress endured four surgeries to remove bladder tumors, according to the filings.
Eli Lilly isn’t a defendant in the Las Vegas trial, Will Kemp, another lawyer for the two women, said in an interview.
Takeda’s net worth for 2013 was listed at $23.6 billion in court filings in the Louisiana case. Lilly’s 2013 net worth was $17.6 billion, according to the filing. Takeda’s net sales of Actos over a nine-year period starting in 2000 totaled more than $15 billion, according to the filing.
Destruction of Files
Jurors heard about Takeda officials’ destruction of files related to the development and marketing of Actos, Kemp said in an interview. The Louisiana jury also was told about document destruction.
Takeda officials have acknowledged they can’t find files compiled by more than 40 current and former employees who worked on the drug, including records created by of the company’s directors, Kemp said.
The case is Triana v. Takeda Pharmaceuticals America Inc., A-13-680556-C, Nevada District Court, Clark County (Las Vegas).