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Drugmaker hid diabetes drug’s cancer risks, lawyer says

May 19, 2014

Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. executives hid the cancer risks of its diabetes medicine Actos to protect billions of dollars in sales, a lawyer for two women argued.

Takeda officials failed to warn consumers and doctors adequately about the company’s research that linked Actos to bladder cancer, Robert Eglet, a lawyer for Delores Cipriano and Bertha Triana, both of whom have contracted the disease after taking the drug, told jurors Monday in closing arguments in a Las Vegas trial.

“A drug company is not allowed to put profits before patients’ safety,” Eglet said. “A drug company must tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about the risks of its products.”

The Nevada state-court case will go to the jury six weeks after a federal-court panel in Louisiana ordered Osaka, Japan- based Takeda and Indianapolis-based partner Eli Lilly and  Co. to pay more than $9 billion in damages to a former shopkeeper who developed bladder cancer after taking the drug.

Takeda’s shares fell more than 5 percent in the wake of that award, which is certain to be reduced. Lilly said it was indemnified by Takeda for its losses and expenses with respect to the U.S. litigation.

Takeda, Asia’s largest drugmaker, faces a wave of Actos suits after it scrapped development of another diabetes drug earlier this year when research linked it to liver damage. More than 2,700 Actos suits have been consolidated before a federal judge in Louisiana for pretrial information exchanges, and thousands of other cases have been filed in state courts around the U.S.

An Illinois jury last week found Takeda wasn’t liable for the bladder-cancer death of a man who took Actos.

Nevada District Court Judge Kerry Earley instructed the jurors before the start of arguments that they could infer that Takeda improperly destroyed evidence and it may have been unfavorable to the company.

The judge also told the jurors that they shouldn’t hold against plaintiffs’ lawyers the numerous objections they raised to questions put to witnesses by attorneys representing Takeda. They were prompted by continuous violations of her orders, Earley said.

Takeda’s lawyers were expected to give their closing statement later Monday.

Lilly shares were up 0.6 percent Monday, to $58.70 each.

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