Takeda told to pay ¥154 million in punitive damages over Actos diabetes drug

Bloomberg

A jury ordered Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. to pay ¥154 million ($1.3 million) in punitive damages to a former teacher who argued the drugmaker’s Actos diabetes medicine caused his bladder cancer, in the company’s fifth loss in trials over the drug.

Jurors in state court in Philadelphia deliberated more than two hours Friday before concluding that Osaka-based Takeda must pay the punitive award to John Kristufek for showing “reckless indifference” to his health by mishandling the diabetes drug. On Thursday, the same panel awarded Kristufek more than $2.3 million in compensatory damages.

Kristufek, a former high school math teacher, is the fifth Actos patient to convince a jury that Takeda’s former top-selling drug causes bladder cancer. Last year, a federal jury in Louisiana ordered Takeda and Eli Lilly & Co., which at one time sold Actos in the U.S., to pay $9 billion in punitive damages to a shopkeeper who blamed his cancer on the drug. That award was cut to $36.8 million.

“Takeda is going to have to understand we’re going to keep on trying these Actos cases until it agrees to resolve litigation over this drug,” Michael Miller, Kristufek’s lawyer, said after the punitive award was announced.

Takeda, Asia’s largest drugmaker, scrapped development of another diabetes drug last year when research linked it to liver damage. More than 3,500 Actos suits have been consolidated before a federal judge in Louisiana for pretrial information exchanges.

The company faces 4,500 more in state courts in places including Illinois, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, according to court records. The next trial is set for March in Wisconsin.

“Takeda is disappointed in today’s verdict and we will be considering our options, including post-trial motions and an appeal,” Kenneth Greisman, general counsel of Takeda’s U.S. unit, said Friday in a statement.

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

Kristufek and other former Actos users argued Takeda executives ignored or downplayed concerns about the drug’s cancer-causing potential before it went on sale in the U.S. in 1999 and misled U.S. regulators about the medicine’s risks.

Takeda argued in court filings the company properly vetted the drug and included all required warnings on its safety label. It has battled former users’ claims in trials across the country starting in 2013.

Juries in California and Maryland in 2013 ordered Takeda to pay a combined $8.2 million in damages over the handling of the drug. Those verdicts later were thrown out by judges and are on appeal. The company also won defense verdicts in two cases in state court in Nevada.

Last year, a Philadelphia jury awarded more than $2 million in damages to a retired accountant who blamed her bladder cancer on Actos. That case also is on appeal.