Actos.
Actos. ()

Updated at 9:55 a.m., August 29

A federal judge on Thursday refused to toss out a $9 billion verdict in the first federal bellwether trial over claims that taking Actos increased the risk of getting bladder cancer.

The jury’s April 7 verdict was the first of nearly 3,000 lawsuits coordinated before U.S. District Judge Rebecca Doherty in Lafayette, La.

Doherty allowed the jury to hear about an earlier ruling in which she sanctioned drug manufacturer Takeda Pharmaceuticals USA Inc. for deleting emails. She later expanded her ruling to say Takeda had acted in bad faith.

Doherty rejected motions by Takeda and Eli Lilly and Co., another defendant, to reject the verdict as a matter of law, calling one of their key arguments challenging the evidence in her sanctions order “troubling.”

“Specifically, evidence of the fact that Takeda destroyed files, and why, is relevant to the questions of Takeda’s intent and to the nature of its conduct, a pivotal aspect inherent in the punitive-damages claim,” she said.

The jury found Takeda and Eli Lilly negligent in marketing the drug, which is used for the treatment of Type 2 diabetes, by failing to warn about its cancer risks. The verdict includes $1.475 million in compensatory damages.

“A 101-page opinion shows the attention and care this judge has given to this matter,” plaintiffs attorney W. Mark Lanier of The Lanier Law Firm in Houston said. “Amazingly and painstakenly detailed.”

“We disagree with the ruling and await a ruling on our motion for a new trial, or alternatively, a significantly reduced punitive damage award,” Takeda senior vice president and general counsel Kenneth Greisman said in a written statement. “We continue to believe that binding legal precedent requires the judge to disregard the verdict in its entirety and grant a new trial. The ruling on that motion is expected in the coming weeks.”

He added: “Patient safety is a critical priority for Takeda. We believe we acted responsibly with regard to Actos and plan to vigorously defend the company against these lawsuits.”

Eli Lilly spokeswoman Candace Johnson said in a formal statement that the company planned an appeal. “While we have empathy for the plaintiff, we believe the evidence did not support claims that Actos caused his bladder cancer,” she said. “We remain confident that Actos is an important option for the treatment of type 2 diabetes and we will continue to defend the company against future litigation.”

Contact Amanda Bronstad at abronstad@alm.com.