This week, a Federal Court jury assessed a substantial verdict against the companies marketing the dangerous and defective diabetes drug Actos. I have discussed the danger of Actos and bladder cancer in prior posts. I have also written about the manufacturer Takeda and claims the company hid tests revealing the risk of bladder cancer to patients.
Takeda faces a huge number of lawsuits from patients who suffered bladder and other cancers after taking this drug. Many of these cases also involve Eli Lilly who distributed the drug in the United States. For purposes of discovery, all Federal Court cases involving Actos have been consolidated before a Judge in Louisiana. I have investigated a number of potential claims related to Actos by consumers in Alabama and have a case pending against Takeda in the consolidated proceedings. So, I followed this first Federal Court trial closely each day.
The trial began in late January and ended this week. At the conclusion of the case, the jury found the two companies concealed the dangers of the drug and failed to warn the patient of the risk. The jury found this patient suffered significant losses and assessed over $1 million dollars in compensatory damages. Next, the jury determined that Takeda and Eli Lilly should be punished for their wrongful conduct. To punish the defendants, the jury assessed punitive damages of $6 billion against manufacturer Takeda and $3 billion against distributor Eli Lilly. As with any verdict against a large corporation, the Wall Street Journal immediately wrote to defend the companies. The Journal wrote that the punitive damages would be reduced on appeal. Will the punitive assessment be reduced? Based on current law, it will. Our courts have created guidelines to evaluate and reduce significant punitive damage awards that are much greater than the actual or compensatory damages suffered by the plaintiff.
While the punitive damages here will surely be reduced, should they? The companies, Takeda and Eli Lilly, made billions selling a dangerous and defective drug to innocent consumers. If the jury is correct, then both companies knowingly poisoned patients. Although a multi-billion dollar punitive assessment sounds huge, it is a drop in the bucket when compared to the profits gained by these companies from their wrongful conduct. Would we allow a person to intentionally poison his neighbor and simply pay a fine when caught? No. We consider that a crime and put the offender in jail. Increasingly, our Supreme Court has provided large corporations the rights of persons. Yet, the same Court often does not require accountability and responsibility from these corporations. Rights should always be accompanied by responsibilities. We should not allow companies to knowingly sell dangerous and defective drugs to the public.
My office continues to investigate and pursue these claims. I’ll be following this verdict closely. Whether ultimately reduced or not, this jury heard the evidence concerning the dangers of this drug and the many efforts of these companies to profit while concealing the harms. The verdict assessed by this jury sends a strong message that this terrible conduct is unacceptable. As a society, we should demand better from the companies marketing medications to us.