BY DAVID SIEGEL
LAS VEGAS, NV – Jurors heard opening statements last week in a civil suit brought by a man alleging Actos, a widely prescribed drug used to treat diabetes, caused his terminal bladder cancer.
Attorneys for Allen Alsabagh, who began taking Actos after having it prescribed to treat his type II diabetes, allege the drug’s manufacturer, TakedaPharmaceutical, concealed the risk of bladder cancer associated with the popular medication from consumers and the medical community.
“The evidence will be that since 2012, Takeda has admitted that bladder cancer is an identified risk of taking Actos,” said Alsabagh’s attorney, Michael Miller of The Miller Law Firm LLC, during opening statements. Miller went on to describe how in 2011, Takeda implemented a major label change and included for the first time a warning of a “statistically significant” risk of bladder cancer associated with taking Actos. Alsabagh began taking the medication before the label change took place. “Neither he nor his physicians got a warning about the risk of bladder cancer,” Miller told the jurors.
Actos users have alleged Takeda knew of the associated risks as far back as 1999 when the drug was first launched, and that Takeda intentionally withheld this information from regulators in the United States. Actos was removed from the market in France and Germany after a 2011 review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found an increased risk of both bladder cancer and heart problems associated with taking the drug.
Representing Takeda, D’Lesli Davis of Fulbright & Jaworsky LLP told jurors during her opening statement that Actos has been used to successfully treat millions of severely ill patients for whom other diabetes medications are not effective. She also detailed how in addition to taking name brand Actoswhich had received FDA approval, that Alsabagh also ordered an unapproved generic version of Actos from an online Canadian pharmacy. “You’re going to hear evidence that ordering medications from foreign websites is extremely dangerous,” said Davis. “You could get sugar pill. You could get a drug that has been cut down to half strength.”
In 2012, the FDA approved generic versions of Actos to treat type 2 diabetes. In concluding her opening statements, Davis said this approval confirmed the drug was safe and was also welcome news for many very sick people. “People really need Actos,” Davis stressed to the jury.
This is the third time a jury will decide a products liability claim related to Actos. In April a California jury awarded $6.5 million in damages to plaintiff who claimed Actos caused his bladder cancer. In September a Maryland jury awarded $1.7 million to another plaintiff with bladder cancer, but in both cases the verdicts were later thrown out by the trial judge. The first federal trial out of more than 1,200 suits related to Actos that have been consolidated before a Louisiana judge is scheduled to begin next January.
Alsabagh’s case was given an expedited trial date under a Nevada law to accommodate dying plaintiffs, since he is only expected to live for a few more months.
Courtroom View Network (“CVN”) will be providing a gavel-to-gavel webcast of proceedings in the Alsabagh trial, which is expected to last for up to a month.
The underlying case is Allen K. Alsabagh v. Takeda Pharmaceutical America Inc.,et al., case number A-12-655741-C before Hon. Susan Johnson in Clark County District Court, Nevada.