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Ex-Lilly partner wins latest suit over Actos' cancer risk

May 23, 2014

Takeda Pharmaceutical Co., Asia’s largest drugmaker, was found not liable for the bladder cancer of two women who used its Actos diabetes medication in the company’s latest win as it faces thousands more U.S. lawsuits.

A jury in state court in Las Vegas on Thursday agreed with the company that Actos didn’t cause the women’s disease, handing Takeda its fifth victory out of six cases that have gone to trial over the drug’s alleged link to bladder cancer.

Actos was marketed for Takeda in the United States by Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Co. from July 1999 to March 2006 and in several other countries until 2011. Lilly isn’t a defendant in the Las Vegas trial but has been named in other lawsuits involving the drug.

A federal jury in Louisiana six weeks ago ordered Takeda and Lilly 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 will probably be reduced. Lilly was ordered to pay $3 billion of that award, but said its agreement with Takeda indemnifies it from legal losses involving Actos.

“We’re very pleased we prevailed,” Takeda’s general counsel, Kenneth Greisman, said about the Las Vegas decision. “We remain confident Actos is an important treatment for patients.”

The Osaka, Japan-based company, which said it will appeal the Louisiana verdict, has prevailed in the four other cases that went to trial. This month, a jury in Illinois found it wasn’t responsible for the death of a man who took the drug.

Takeda faces claims by more than 7,000 plaintiffs, according to Greisman.

A 2011 analysis by the Food and Drug Administration of a company-sponsored study found some Actos users were more likely to develop bladder cancer or heart problems. Takeda officials failed to adequately warn consumers and doctors of the risks, Robert Eglet, a lawyer for the Nevada plaintiffs, Delores Cipriano and Bertha Triana, told jurors in his closing argument.

Craig Thompson, Takeda’s lawyer, said the plaintiffs failed to prove Actos was the cause of Cipriano’s and Triana’s bladder cancer. Neither woman was using the drug at the time she was diagnosed, he said.

Will Kemp, another lawyer for the Nevada plaintiffs, declined to immediately comment on the verdict.

Actos sales peaked in the year ended March 2011 at $4.5 billion and accounted for 27 percent of Takeda’s revenue at the time, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Actos has generated more than $16 billion in sales since its 1999 release, according to court filings. Takeda now faces generic competition from Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd.

Last year, state juries in California and Maryland ordered Takeda to pay a total of $8.2 million in damages to former Actos users. Judges in both states threw out the verdicts.

In December, jurors in Las Vegas rejected claims the company failed to properly warn consumers about the risks of Actos.

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