Judge sets 1st hearing for diabetes drug lawsuits

A federal judge in Louisiana has scheduled an initial court hearing for a batch of lawsuits that claim Takeda Pharmaceuticals’ top-selling diabetes drug, Actos, carries an increased risk of bladder cancer. In an order issued Monday, U.S. District Judge Rebecca Doherty said she plans to appoint lead attorneys for the consolidated cases after the March […]

A federal judge in Louisiana has scheduled an initial court hearing for a batch of lawsuits that claim Takeda Pharmaceuticals’ top-selling diabetes drug, Actos, carries an increased risk of bladder cancer.

In an order issued Monday, U.S. District Judge Rebecca Doherty said she plans to appoint lead attorneys for the consolidated cases after the March 22 status conference in her Lafayette, La., courtroom.

In December, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation assigned Doherty to preside over dozens of lawsuits against Actos maker Takeda Pharmaceuticals America Inc., which is based in Deerfield, Ill. Plaintiffs’ attorneys expect to file several thousand claims against Takeda and its related companies on behalf of people who used the drug.

Takeda’s Japanese parent company, Takeda Pharmaceuticals Co. Ltd., halted sales of Actos in Germany and France last year. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning about the drug’s possible cancer risks in 2010 but allowed sales to continue.

After the FDA approved Actos in 1999, Takeda co-promoted the drug in the U.S. with Eli Lilly & Co. Takeda took over responsibility for the drug’s marketing when the agreement between the company ended in 2006, attorneys for the companies said in court papers.

An FDA spokeswoman says information about a possible risk of bladder cancer associated with the use of Actos has been on its label since the drug was approved for treating Type 2 diabetes in 1999.

Takeda released a statement on Tuesday saying that it works hard to evaluate any potential risks associated with its products.

“Takeda is confident in the therapeutic benefits of Actos and its importance as a treatment for type 2 diabetes. As a science and evidence-based company, Takeda firmly stands behind the substantial data available confirming the positive risk/benefit profile of Actos, which includes twelve years of clinical and patient experience with the product,” the statement said.

The first lawsuit linking Actos to bladder cancer was filed against Takeda and Eli Lillly in July 2011, according to the companies’ lawyers.

Paul Pennock of Weitz & Luxenberg, a New York firm that represents dozens of people with Actos-related claims, said Judge Doherty is now handling roughly 150 of these suits. Thousands more could have federal claims filed in or transferred to Lafayette by the end of the year, he said.

“People should not run the risk of getting bladder cancer from treating their diabetes given the many other excellent therapies available,” Pennock said.

Thousands of other claims involving Actos are expected to be heard in California and Illinois state courts.

The lawsuits claim researchers have found that people who take Actos for more than a year are at increased risk of developing bladder cancer. The suits also accuse Takeda of concealing their knowledge of the cancer risks and failing to adequately warn consumer and health care providers.

Actos sales in the U.S. fell by roughly 3 percent last year, but the drug remained the best-selling Type 2 diabetes drug on the market, according to the health care information firm IMS Health. The firm says Actos accounted for $3.4 billion in sales in 2011, or nearly 84 percent of sales among drugs in the same class.

Source:  http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505245_162-57377764/judge-sets-1st-hearing-for-diabetes-drug-lawsuits/

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