Jury selection began Monday in the first bellwether case among nearly 3,000 lawsuits coordinated for pretrial purposes in 2011 before U.S. District Judge Rebecca Doherty in Lafayette, La. A bellwether case is one selected by the parties whose outcome could help resolve issues common to the litigation.

Doherty, of the Western District of Louisiana, is hearing the case against Takeda Pharmaceuticals International Inc. and Eli Lilly and Co., which jointly marketed Actos for treatment of Type II diabetes. A second bellwether trial is scheduled for April 14.

Defense attorney Sara Gourley, a partner at Chicago’s Sidley Austin who represents both companies, confirmed the trial date but did not respond to a request for comment.

“We empathize with the patients but believe that Takeda acted responsibly with regard to Actos. There is no credible scientific evidence that establishes a causal link between Actos and bladder cancer,” said Kenneth Greisman, senior vice president and general counsel of Takeda Pharmaceuticals U.S.A. Inc., in an emailed statement. “Further, the FDA has confirmed Actos as safe and effective for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.”

Co-lead plaintiffs attorney Richard Arsenault of Neblett, Beard & Arsenault in Alexandria, La., did not respond to a request for comment.

The case was brought by New York couple Terrence and Susan Allen, who claim that Takeda and its affiliates were negligent because they failed to warn about the bladder cancer risks when Terrence Allen began taking Actos in 2006. Allen was diagnosed with cancer in 2011. His wife, Susan, has sued for loss of consortium.

In 1999, Takeda and Eli Lilly, based in Indianapolis, began jointly promoting Actos following the drug’s approval. Takeda continued to market the drug on its own in 2006.

In 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, citing at least two medical studies, warned the public that taking the drug for more than a year might be associated with an increased risk of bladder cancer. The Actos label was changed later that year to reflect those warnings.

In addition to the federal docket, hundreds of cases are pending in state courts. Of those, the first trial ended in a $6.5 million verdict on April 26 in Los Angeles, but the defendants, challenging the plaintiffs’ expert, got the award tossed out. On Sept. 26, a jury in Baltimore returned a $1.7 million verdict, but the judge threw it out. A Las Vegas jury issued a defense verdict on Dec. 16.

Contact Amanda Bronstad at abronstad@alm.com.