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A major insurance company has joined the growing number of plaintiffs who have filed Actos lawsuits being pursued against Takeda Pharmaceuticals and Eli Lilly & Co., alleging that inadequate warnings provided about the risk of bladder cancer from the diabetes drug resulted in avoidable medical costs that insurance companies had to pay.
The complaint (PDF) was filed by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Inc. on June 11, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana.
The insurer raises similar allegations brought by thousands of former users, indicating that the drug makers knew about the risk of bladder cancer from Actos side effects, yet failed to provide warnings for doctors or patients.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield demands that the drug makers cover the costs of medical bills it paid for hundreds of Actos users diagnosed with bladder cancer, claiming that they negligently or fraudulently concealed the risks associated with Actos.
Actos (pioglitazone) is a type 2 diabetes drug that has been used by millions of Americans. Concerns emerged in 2010 about a potential link between Actos and bladder cancer, leading to a growing number of lawsuits against Takeda and Eli Lilly for failure to adequately research the medication or provide sufficient warnings to consumers and the medical community.
There are currently about 3,000 other complaints consolidated in federal court in Louisiana as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation, where they are centralized under U.S. District Judge Rebecca Doherty for pretrial proceedings. However, once the number of cases are added in from states nationwide, the number of claims is more than 7,000.
According to testimony and evidence presented during early Actos trials so far, Takeda Pharmaceuticals actively tried to hide the drug’s link to bladder cancer and successfully did so for several years. The claims were supported by internal memos and communications, as well as scientific studies conducted within the company.
In the course of Actos litigation, Judge Doherty has determined that Takeda has acted in bad faith during pretrial discovery and either accidentally or intentionally destroyed evidence relative to the case.
In April, a federal jury hit the company with $9 billion in punitive damages in an Actos bellwether trial.
Bellwether cases are early test cases used to gauge how juries will respond to evidence and testimony likely to be used throughout the litigation. Although the results are not binding on other cases, they may influence negotiations on an Actos settlement agreement.
However, Takeda and Eli Lilly have successfully defended Actos in five other trials, including a recent defense verdict in Illinois state court.