On Tuesday April, 8, a Louisiana Jury ordered drug makers Eli Lily and Takeda Pharmaceutical Company to pay a total of $9 billion in punitive damages after they judged the companies did not disclose known cancer risks of their diabetes medicine Actos. In the award, Japan-based Takeda was ordered to pay $6 billion, and Eli Lilly, which helped promote and market the drug, was ordered to pay $3 billion. The jury also awarded nearly $1.5 million to the plaintiffs in compensatory damages.
The prescription drug pioglitazone, which was sold under the name Actos, was prescribed to treat patients with Type 2 Diabetes. An FDA review in 2011 discovered that patients taking Actos for more than a year had an increased risk of bladder cancer. That same year the drug was banned in several European countries over the same concerns.
Former Actos user Terrence Allen, who blamed the drug for his bladder cancer, brought the lawsuit. According to court dockets, more than 2,700 more Actos suits have also been consolidated before U.S. District Judge Rebecca Doherty in Louisiana for pretrial information exchanges.
I believe this verdict handed down by the Lousiana jury sends a clear message to more than just Takada and Eli Lilly. It puts all pharmaceutical companies who sell drugs in the United States on notice that the health and safety of Americans is paramount to profits.
Takeda had downplayed rising concerns about the risk of bladder cancer in patients taking Actos. In 2004, experts showed a clear cancer link, yet it wasn’t until 2011 that Takeda began to provide a specific cancer warning for Actos. E-mails released in the trial showed company executives dragging their feet with the warning because the profit stream from Actos was “vital to the company’s survival.”
Even more disturbing was the lengths the company went to to hide their actions regarding Actos. The trial revealed that corporate officers at Takeda intentionally destroyed documents about the development, marking and sales of Actos – including those of top executives in Japan and the U.S.
It is the duty of every pharmaceutical company to produce safe products and warn doctors and patients of any adverse health effects their dugs may cause. Takeda and Eli Lilly violated these duties and caused irreversible harm and suffering to the patients taking Actos. The damages awarded by the Louisiana jury send a clear message that the time has come to pay for their misdeeds.