Big relief for Takeda, Lilly as judge slashes $9B Actos award by 99%

 

That scary $9 billion damages award a Louisiana jury slapped on Takeda and Eli Lilly ($LLY) earlier this year? A U.S. district judge slashed the bill by more than 99%, saying the new amount is the biggest award allowed under current law.

Good news for both companies, which have been fighting litigation over their Actos diabetes medicine and its potential to trigger bladder cancer. But Judge Rebecca Doherty rejected the companies' bigger request, for a new trial.

Doherty ruled that the jury's finding in the case--that Takeda and Lilly hid the drug's cancer risks--was proper, and said that the companies should pay punitive damages. The size of the award was excessive, but the decision itself should stand, she said.

Takeda and Lilly tell Bloomberg that they'll continue to fight the jury's verdict. "We view the substantially reduced punitive damage award as a step in the right direction, but we believe a damage award of any amount is not justified based on the evidence presented in this trial," Takeda spokesman Kenneth Greisman said in a statement. As for Lilly, general counsel Mike Harrington said, "While we have empathy for the plaintiff, we believe the evidence did not support his claims."

The Louisiana case was the first to hit federal court; more than 3,500 claims are now under Doherty's purview. Another 4,500 are pending in state courts.

The cases level similar allegations: That Takeda (and in the Louisiana case, partner Eli Lilly) buried evidence that Actos, a blockbuster seller, could increase patients' risk of bladder cancer. The FDA added a warning to the drug's label in 2011, but plaintiffs claim that Takeda knew by 2004 that studies had drawn links between Actos and bladder cancer, and kept quiet.

Meanwhile, another Actos trial is in process in West Virginia. A Pennsylvania case went to trial early this month, and ended in a $2 million judgement against Takeda. In May, an Illinois state court and a Las Vegas jury both found in favor of Takeda.

So far, Takeda has successfully argued that individual plaintiffs developed bladder cancer not because of Actos, but because of other risk factors, including smoking. The company ended up prevailing in 7 of the 9 cases decided so far, with the Louisiana and Pennsylvania verdicts counting as the two losses.

- read the Bloomberg story

Special Reports: Top 10 best-selling diabetes drugs of 2012 - Actos

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