Drugs marketed by large corporations can sometimes cause more harm than good. If drug manufacturers know their product does present dangerous side effects or risks, these companies need to take swift action to inform doctors and the patients. But instead of sharing these important findings with the public, they sometimes try to conceal the information.
A recent federal court trial involving Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. and Eli Lilly & Co. illustrates the legal consequences of allegedly concealing risks associated with a drug. A federal court jury on April 8 decided two companies should pay a combined $9 billion in punitive damages because they allegedly hid the cancer risks of their Actos diabetes medicine.
Our dangerous drug attorneys know that significant verdicts such as the one involving Takeda and Eli Lilly can send a strong message to every company that safety should never take a back seat to the desire to make profits. The jury ordered punitive damages, which are designed to discourage companies from bad conduct. The compensatory damages, which are meant to pay victims for their actual losses, were $1.5 million. According to a Reuters article, Takeda plans to contest the $6 billion in damages it has to pay. Eli Lilly, which was ordered to pay $3 billion, also said it plans to dispute the verdict.
Huge Profits Tied to Popular Medications
Regardless of how the case ultimately gets resolved, it’s clear that the companies made a lot of money off of Actos, which was introduced to consumers in 1999 to treat type 2 diabetes. Sales of the popular drug peaked at $4.5 billion in 2011. Lawsuits, however, were filed alleging that Actos was causing bladder cancer among some people who were using the drug. Claimants alleged that Takeda and Lilly wrongfully hid the risk of cancer.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration required a label for Actos that warned consumers about the potentially increased risk of bladder cancer. In a safety alert, the FDA stated that the use of Actos (generically known as pioglitazone) for more than one year may be linked with an increased risk of bladder cancer. The FDA created the alert after reviewing a five-year interim analysis of an ongoing, 10-year epidemiological study.
In the lawsuit filed by Terrence Allen, a former Actos user, Allen alleged that Takeda was aware of Actos’ cancer risks seven years prior to the 2011 FDA safety alert. The lawsuit also alleged that high-level company officials intentionally destroyed documents about the development, marketing and sales of Actos. Siding with Allen, the Louisiana jury in Federal Court awarded $1.5 million in compensatory damages and agreed on the $9 billion in combined punitive damages. The punitive damages portion of the verdict was one of the largest of its kind.
The jury also concluded that Takeda and Eli Lilly executives acted “with wanton and reckless disregard” for patient safety by allegedly destroying files of 46 current and former employees with access to sensitive information, among other alleged actions related to the handling of Actos.
Actos lawsuits are continuing to make their way through the legal process. More than 2,700 Actos claims are consolidated before U.S. District Judge Rebecca Doherty in Louisiana for pretrial information exchanges.
If you or a loved one was injured or a loved one died after exposure to a drug, contact the Shelton Law Group today at 888-761-7204 to learn about our options.