The first federal Actos bladder cancer trial began this week, with plaintiff attorneys telling a jury that Takeda Pharmaceuticals knew their blockbuster diabetes drug increased the risk of bladder cancer, yet decided to let the medical community and patients find out the hard way.
Opening states began on Monday before a federal court jury in Lafayette, Louisiana, involving a lawsuit filed by Terrence Allen, who was diagnosed with bladder cancer after using Actos from 2004 to 2011.
The case is the first out of more than 2,600 Actos lawsuits pending in the federal court system, which all involve similar allegations that Takeda Pharmaceuticals failed to adequately warn users or the medical community about the risk of bladder cancer from Actos.
The trial began just days after U.S. District Judge Rebecca Doherty ruled that the company has been acting in bad faith during the Actos litigation discovery process, ordering that juries will be told that the company had hidden or destroyed information. The first witness called to the stand by plaintiffs was Stacey Calahan, Assistant General Counsel for Takeda, who testified regarding the spoliation of evidence issues.
It is expected that the case will continue for about six weeks, with plaintiffs taking about 20 days to put on their case and Takeda indicating that it will take about another 11 days for the defense.
During opening statements, attorneys for the drug maker told the jury that no one has successfully established that Actos causes cancer, indicating that something else caused Allen’s bladder cancer.
Actos (pioglitazone) is a type 2 diabetes drug that has been used by millions of Americans. However, concerns emerged in 2010 about a potential link between Actos and bladder cancer.
In addition to cases pending before Judge Doherty in the Actos MDL, a large number of cases have been filed in various state courts throughout the country. At least three trials have already taken place at the state level, with conflicting results.
In May 2013, a California jury awarded $6.5 million in damages over Actos bladder cancer in a case brought by Jack Cooper, who was given an expedited trial date due to his grave health. However, following post-trial motions, that verdict was reversed after the state court judge excluded the plaintiffs’ expert witness testimony.
A second trial was held in Maryland state court in September 2013, which resulted in a jury finding that Takeda failed to adequately warn about the risk of bladder cancer from Actos and awarding $1.77 million in damages. However, the case resulted in a defense verdict for the drug maker under a unique Maryland law, known as contributory negligence, as the jury also found that the plaintiff failed to exercise reasonable care for his own health, which nullified the negligence of the drug maker.
A third Actos bladder cancer trial recently concluded in Nevada state court, which resulted in a defense verdict after the jury determined that both Actos and the plaintiff’s history as a smoker contributed to the development of bladder cancer. In that case, the plaintiff also ordered generic versions of Actos from online pharmacies, which raised questions as to whether Actos or unknown factors in the generic versions purchased online could have contributed to the development of the disease in that case.
Following a series of bellwether trials that are scheduled in the federal MDL, if Takeda failes to reach Actos settlement agreements to resolve a large portion of the litigation, Judge Doherty may begin remanding hundreds of individual cases back to the U.S. District Courts where they were originally filed for separate trial dates throughout the country.