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Federal Judge Orders Coordination with State Actos Lawsuits

scales-personal-injury-lowThe federal judge presiding over thousands of Actos lawsuits that are currently consolidated in a multi-district litigation (MDL) recently issued a handful of case management orders. The orders are an apparent attempt to streamline the large, complex litigation, encourage large-scale settlement, and prevent duplication of thousands of state court Actos lawsuits.

Actos MDL streamlined by Special Masters

Judge Rebecca F. Doherty of the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, Lafayette Division is presiding over the federal Actos MDL. Earlier this month, she issued three separate case management orders directing the parties to consolidate and provide to the Special Masters facts related to each plaintiff in the litigation.

Special masters are neutral third parties appointed by the court to oversee settlement discussions and mediation or perform other tasks to simplify complex litigation. The court has also appointed a plaintiffs’ steering committee to negotiate on behalf of the many plaintiffs, who have similar and related, but not necessarily identical, claims.

In the recent orders, Judge Doherty instructed the defendants, Takeda Pharmaceuticals and Eli Lilly & Co., to analyze the plaintiffs’ fact sheets and provide a compilation of information related to each plaintiff including their Actos use, medical history, bladder cancer treatment, and other cancer risk factors. In return, the plaintiffs’ steering committee is to assemble and provide to the Special Masters a compilation of information including each Actos user’s prescribing physician, the identity of the sales rep in contact with the physician, and details of any communications between the physicians and the defendants.

In the two remaining case management orders issued at the same time, the court directed the parties to identify any state court cases involving plaintiffs that are also members of the Actos MDL. They must also follow court-ordered timelines to provide the Special Masters with updates on the status of the related state court cases.

Actos linked to bladder cancer

There are more than 3,500 federal lawsuits pending in the MDL. Another 4,500 plaintiffs have filed Actos lawsuits in the state courts. At the heart of the cases are allegations of an increased risk of bladder cancer in Actos patients who take the drug for more than one year.

Approved by the Federal Drug Administration in 1999, Actos has been prescribed to regulate blood sugar in patients with Type 2 diabetes. However, the FDA released a warning in 2011 that long-term use had been associated with the development of bladder cancer. It required a black box warning to alert consumers and doctors of the risk. Because of the risk, drug regulators in both France and Germany have banned the medication altogether.

With thousands of cases still pending, the juries sitting on several Actos trials have found that the defendants hid the drug’s health risks. In April 2014, in the largest Actos verdict to date, a Louisiana jury awarded a plaintiff $9 billion over his Actos bladder cancer claim. Takeda and Eli Lilly successfully had the verdict reduced by over 99%, but this still resulted in $36.8 million for the plaintiff.

Also in 2014, a state court jury in Philadelphia awarded a plaintiff $2 million in her bladder cancer lawsuit.

  1. United States District Court Western District of Louisiana, IN RE: Actos (Pioglitazone) Products Liability Litigation,
  2. U.S. Food & Drug Administration, FDA Drug Safety Communication: Update to ongoing safety review of Actos (pioglitazone) and increased risk of bladder cancer,
  3. BloombergBusiness, Takeda, Lilly Win 99.6% Cut in Actos Punitive Damages,