Takeda Pharmaceutical Co was ordered by a jury to pay $155,000 over the destruction of documents about its Actos diabetes medicine after the panel concluded the missing files blocked a man from proving his claims the drug caused his cancer.
Jurors in state court in Martinsburg, West Virginia, deliberated about three hours on Thursday before concluding Takeda officials intentionally destroyed files about the development and marketing of Actos, Michael Miller, the plaintiff’s lawyer, said in an interview. The panel awarded compensatory damages to retired bakery worker Richard Myers, Miller said.
Jurors found the systematic document destruction blocked Myers from having access to evidence that could have proved his claims that Takeda failed to adequately warn about the diabetes drug’s bladder-cancer risks, Miller said.
The West Virginia verdict comes more than a month after a state court jury in Pennsylvania ordered Takeda to pay $2mn to a former Actos user over her bladder cancer and two weeks after a federal judge in Louisiana concluded a punitive damages against the drug maker were justified.
“The verdict is the death knell for Takeda because it establishes once and for all that they intentionally destroyed evidence to bar bladder-cancer victims from proving the drug harmed them,” Miller said.
Myers, 71, is the eighth Actos patient to take his suit to trial and the fifth to win a damages award from a jury, based on data compiled by Bloomberg News.
“We are considering our options, including an appeal” of the finding the company wilfully and intentionally destroyed Actos files, Kenneth Greisman, a US-based spokesman for Takeda, said in an e-mailed statement.
More than 3,500 Actos suits have been consolidated before US District Judge Rebecca Doherty in Lafayette, Louisiana, for pretrial information exchanges, according to court dockets. The company faces another 4,500 cases in state courts in Illinois, West Virginia, California and Pennsylvania, according to court records.
Sales of Actos peaked in March 2011 at $4.5bn for Takeda and accounted for 27% of the company’s revenue at the time, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Actos has generated more than $16bn in sales since its 1999 release, according to court filings. Takeda now faces generic competition from Ranbaxy Laboratories.
Ex-Actos users contend in court filings Takeda researchers ignored or downplayed concerns about the drug’s cancer-causing potential before it went on sale in the US and misled US regulators and doctors about the medicine’s risks.
In 2013, juries in California and Maryland ordered Takeda to pay a combined $8.2mn in damages over the company’s handling of the drug. Those verdicts later were thrown out by judges. The company also has won defense verdicts in two cases in state court in Las Vegas and one in state court in Illinois.
Takeda faced its largest Actos verdict in April, when a federal court jury in Lafayette, Louisiana, ordered the drug maker and partner Eli Lilly & Co to pay a combined $9bn in punitive damages to a man who blamed the drug for his bladder cancer. A judge last month cut the award by more than 99% to $36.8mn and both companies have vowed to appeal the verdict.
Myers’ lawyers argued during the West Virginia trial that over an eight-year period starting in 2002, Takeda officials waged an effort to destroy Actos-related files as part of its litigation strategy.
Officials wiped computer hard drives, deleted e-mail files and destroyed paper records of executives who helped develop and market Actos, Miller alleged in court filings.
Takeda’s lawyers countered the company didn’t destroy the Actos documents to hide them from plaintiffs and had proper document-retention policies in place. The company also said it already had produced “a host” of Actos-related files in the litigation.
“Takeda didn’t destroy documents intentionally and has restored almost all of the documents and submitted them,” Kazumi Kobayashi, a Takeda spokesman, said in a phone interview.