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Rx giants lose bid to avoid damages

Judge rules jury verdict to stand for Lilly, Takeda

Takeda Pharmaceutical and Eli Lilly & Co. lost a bid to have a judge throw out a combined $9 billion punitive-damage award over claims the drugmakers hid the cancer risks of their Actos diabetes medicine.

Jurors properly considered evidence showing officials of Takeda and knew Actos was linked to bladder cancer and failed to properly warn patients and doctors before assessing the damages, U.S. District Judge Rebecca Doherty in Lafayette, Louisiana, ruled Thursday.

The verdict, which is likely to be reduced on appeal, is the second-largest in the U.S. in 2014 according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“The jury acted within its role and discretion to attach whatever weight and make whatever reasonable inference it deemed appropriate when assessing the defendants’ conduct,” Doherty said in her 101-page decision.

The decision didn’t resolve a defense request for a new trial in Terrence Allen’s case, which was the first federal trial over claims that Actos causes bladder cancer.

“We disagree with the ruling and await a ruling on our motion for a new trial,” Kenneth Greisman, a spokesman for Osaka, Japan-based Takeda, said in an e-mailed statement.

“We continue to believe that binding legal precedent requires the judge to disregard the verdict in its entirety and grant a new trial.”

Tarra Ryker, a spokeswoman for Indianapolis-based Lilly, didn’t immediately respond to a phone call and e-mail seeking comment on the ruling.

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 information 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.

Lilly served as Takeda’s U.S. partner in selling and marketing the drug over seven years starting in 1999.

While that partnership ended in 2006, Lilly retained rights to sell Actos in parts of Asia and Europe, as well as in Canada and Mexico.