A jury in Lafayette, Louisiana, handed down the seventh-largest award in US history against Takeda Pharmaceutical, Asia’s largest drugmaker, and Eli Lilly & Co according to Bloomberg. The federal court jury found the companies hid the cancer risks of their Actos diabetes medicine and ordered them to pay a combined $9 billion in punitive damages. The verdict will most likely be reduced because the US Supreme Court has said punitive verdicts, imposed for bad conduct, must be proportional to the actual damages that underlie them. Takeda and Lilly have announced they will appeal. Plaintiff Terrence Allen blamed the drug for his bladder cancer. His lawyer, Mark Lanier, said that he hoped the Takeda executives in Japan heard what the jury had to say loudly and clearly.
It was learned during the trial that Takeda officials intentionally destroyed documents about the development, marketing and sales of Actos. Because Takeda failed to properly protect the documents, US District Judge Rebecca Doherty penalized the company by instructing jurors they could infer that the files may have reinforced Allen’s claims that the company wrongfully hid the medication’s health risk.
Though a long court battle is still ahead, today the verdict sends a message to global corporations that they must put health and safety ahead of profits or American juries will hold them accountable.