Takeda insists that it marketed Actos properly and that the drug's benefits far outweigh its side effects, but the drug maker in 2015 settled about 9,000 lawsuits for no less than $2.37 billion. Plaintiffs say they -- or loved ones -- developed bladder cancer or other serious maladies after long-term use of the medication.
More than 10,000 were filed lawsuits alleging Actos injuries in state and federal courts across the United States, and a large number of plaintiffs will collect damages from drug maker Takeda Pharmaceuticals Co.
The Japanese manufacturer lost five of the first eight bellwether trials that linked its best-selling Type 2 diabetes medication to bladder cancer, although two verdicts later were overturned on appeal. The momentum of the litigation led Takeda to settle approximately 9,000 claims nationwide for between $2.37 billion and $2.7 billion.
If you or a loved one has been injured by Actos, you may also be eligible for compensation through a settlement or a jury verdict. But your claim will likely be vigorously contested by the drugmaker, so you should consider seeking help from an experienced Actos lawyer.
Takeda Agrees to $2.37 Billion Settlement
Takeda took a significant step in April 2015 by agreeing to a settlement that is among the largest Big Pharma agreements in U.S. history. The settlement could rise to $2.7 billion if size of the plaintiff class grows higher.
As part of the agreement, the drug maker maintained the position it has held for years — that Actos has many more benefits than it does negative side effects and that it did nothing wrong in the marketing of the medication.
More than 4,000 lawsuits that sat in a Multidistrict Litigation group in U.S. District Court in the Western District of Louisiana.
Terms of Settlement
According to the Master Settlement Agreement, the amount of money each claimant may be awarded will be calculated using a “Points Matrix.” Each claim will be awarded points based on fulfilling certain criteria, and the more points awarded, the more money a claimant could receive.
Some of the criteria include:
- extent of injury and treatment
- length of time a person took Actos
- dosage of Actos
- risk factors for bladder cancer, including smoking
Claimants may file to receive extra money from the Extraordinary Injury Fund if the injury or loss is severe enough.
Bellwether Trial Results in $9 Billion Punitive Damages Award
In April 2014, a federal jury in Louisiana slapped Takeda and Eli Lilly & Co. with a $9 billion punitive damages verdict. Terrence Allen, et ux v. Takeda Pharmaceuticals North America, Inc. was the first case to go to trial in the federal Actos multidistrict litigation (MDL). According to data gathered by Bloomberg News, the verdict is the seventh-largest punitive damages award in U.S. history.
Losing a bellwether trial often provides a good incentive for a drugmaker to cut its losses and begin settling remaining cases. But that may not be the case with Takeda because of the type and size of the award. While compensatory damages pay injured plaintiffs for their actual losses, the purpose of punitive verdicts is to deter and punish the defendant’s conduct.
That may sound like a simple goal, but courts often disagree with how much juries award for punitive damages. Juries often lack clear instructions from the judge or have trouble applying instructions on how to calculate punitive awards. As a result, courts frequently reverse or reduce punitive verdicts. According to Bloomberg’s data, before Allen, all of the 10 largest punitive verdicts against corporations were either thrown out or “substantially reduced.”
Historic Award Likely to Be Reduced
Many experts expect a court to at least reduce the $9 billion award because of a 2003 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that excessive punitive damages awards are unconstitutional. As a general rule, the high court said, a punitive award must be proportional to any compensatory damages awarded to the plaintiff in a case.
Under the court’s reasoning, punitive awards that are 10 times the compensatory award are acceptable only in limited cases. To put this case in perspective, the Allen jury’s punitive damages award is roughly 6,000 times its compensatory damages award of about $1.5 million. So it’s likely the $9 billion will be reduced, especially since Takeda wasted no time announcing its plans to appeal following the verdict.
The jury found that Takeda was responsible for $6 billion of the punitive verdict, while Lilly was responsible for $3 billion. Lilly, which marketed Actos, also announced that it plans to contest the verdict. Takeda has agreed to cover Lilly’s litigation losses, so it’s not surprising that the two companies have the same litigation strategy.
Verdict Provides Clues for Other Cases
Regardless how much of the punitive verdict survives, the case gives important signs for the more than 2,900 cases remaining in the MDL and for Actos lawsuits pending in state courts. In January, the judge overseeing the MDL ruled the jury could hear evidence that Takeda destroyed documents and emails relevant to the case. As a result, the jurors could infer the destroyed evidence supported the plaintiff’s claim that Takeda concealed Actos’ health risks.
Based on the verdict, it appears the jury did just that and found the drug giants violated their duty to properly warn consumers about their product’s risks. By awarding punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages, it concluded the defendants’ conduct was negligent and reckless.
If the judge presiding over the federal MDL continues to let jurors take evidence spoliation into account, Takeda could face more unfavorable verdicts and could eventually become more willing to settle Actos claims.
Compensatory Damages also Available for Patient Losses
Allen’s $1.5 million compensatory damages award has not sparked as much controversy as the punitive damages award. But Takeda and Lilly still plan to contest both compensatory and punitive damages awards with the trial judge and, if necessary, with appeals courts. Although the companies have expressed sympathy for the plaintiffs’ suffering, they still say they’ve done nothing wrong.
But of course, Terrence Allen and his wife, Susan, disagree. Mr. Allen began taking Actos in 2006 to treat Type 2 diabetes. In 2011, he was diagnosed with bladder cancer. A few months after his diagnosis, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that taking Actos for more than one year had been linked with bladder cancer. Drugmakers have a legal duty to warn against such risks. Injured plaintiffs like Allen say they would not have taken Actos and been exposed to the cancer risk if Takeda and Eli Lilly had adequately warned them.
The federal jury hearing the New York couple’s case agreed that Actos contributed to Allen’s cancer.
Plaintiffs like Allen who are awarded compensatory damages may use the awards to cover:
- Medical expenses (doctor’s bills, surgery and hospital bills)
- Costs of ongoing care (caregiving services)
- To make up for lost income
- Loss of consortium (disruption of relationship with spouse)
Allen was the fourth U.S. Actos trial. Takeda managed to avoid paying damages in the other three cases, which were tried in state court in 2013. In one of those cases, a Las Vegas jury decided the company was not liable for Actos injuries. However, in the remaining two cases, the juries awarded damages to Actos plaintiffs.
Takeda successfully had those verdicts tossed for reasons unrelated to the company’s alleged wrongdoing:
- A California jury awarded $6.5 million to Jack Cooper, a telephone company worker who was diagnosed with bladder cancer after taking Actos. Takeda convinced the judge to throw out the verdict because of “inherently unreliable” expert testimony from a doctor.
- In 2013, a Maryland jury awarded $1.7 million to the family of Diep An, a former Army translator, who died from bladder cancer after taking Actos. Takeda convinced the judge to throw out that verdict because the jury also found that Mr. An’s smoking history contributed to his death. Under Maryland’s contributory negligence law, product makers can avoid paying any damages if the plaintiff’s conduct may have contributed to his death.
These cases demonstrate that juries are willing to rule in favor of plaintiffs who have been injured by Actos. But they also show that each case is different, and there are many factors that affect the outcome of an individual case. So if Actos has injured you or your loved one, it’s wise to talk to a qualified attorney as soon as possible about your legal options. You may be eligible for compensation through a verdict or settlement. Drugwatch Patient Advocates can help you find qualified attorneys to handle your case.