Two Clark County women are among thousands of plaintiffs across the country who have filed product liability lawsuits against the maker of the diabetes drug Actos.
Delores Cipriano, 81, of Henderson and Bertha Triana, 80, of Las Vegas each filed lawsuits last year in District Court against Takeda Pharmaceuticals, a Japanese company that makes the prescription drug pioglitazone under the trade name Actos. Both women allege their bladder cancer was caused by the medication.
Their cases have been combined, and their lawyers are scheduled to present opening statements to a jury this morning.
“It’s an important case because there’s many cases nationwide,” said attorney Will Kemp, who represents Triana and her husband, Hiram.
Cipriano’s lawyer, Robert Eglet, said he plans to seek a multibillion-dollar verdict, which would be the largest in Nevada history.
Eglet holds the three largest personal injury verdicts in Nevada and more multimillion-dollar verdicts than any trial attorney in the state’s history, according to a spokesman.
Jury selection in the Las Vegas case against Takeda began Feb. 10 and was completed on Tuesday. District Judge Kerry Earley is presiding over the trial, which is expected to last eight to 10 more weeks.
Takeda Pharmaceuticals is accused of failing to inform consumers and medical professionals about the risk of bladder cancer associated with the use of Actos.
“Due to Takeda Pharmaceutical’s conscious decision to keep this information from consumers and their doctors, we now have patients who are left to bear the permanent injury caused by Actos,” Eglet said in a statement. “That’s why we will be asking for over a billion-dollar punitive damage verdict.”
In a statement, Kenneth Greisman, senior vice president and general counsel of Takeda Pharmaceuticals U.S.A. Inc., said, “We believe the courtroom is the appropriate forum to address matters concerning this case. Takeda is committed to patient safety and is confident in the therapeutic benefits of Actos.”
In 2011, the Food and Drug Administration announced that using Actos for more than one year may be associated with an increased risk of bladder cancer.
Eglet said the judge will instruct the jury that any punitive damages they award should send a message without putting the company out of business.
“We have an expert economist in this case that will testify that it will take $41 billion to annihilate this company,” the lawyer said.
Eglet said he will ask for an award of a “couple billion dollars.”
Adam Levine, a Florida doctor and lawyer, said he does not know whether Eglet has a billion-dollar case.
“Suing a pharmaceutical company is just like suing a tobacco company because they both have deep pockets,” he said.
But Levine said the defendant undoubtedly will appeal any large verdict.
“Even after you get a judgment, it’s going to be a long time before you get dollar one,” he said.
A federal trial involving hundreds of consolidated Actos cases is taking place in Louisiana. Eglet, who represents other clients in lawsuits against Takeda, said he expects both the Louisiana and the Las Vegas trials to end around the same time.
According to Triana’s lawsuit, she was diagnosed with bladder cancer in May 2012 after taking Actos for about two years. Cipriano was diagnosed with bladder cancer in July 2012 after taking the drug for about 14 months.
Kemp said Triana has had four operations to remove bladder tumors and is undergoing her third round of chemotherapy.
Eglet said Cipriano, a widow and retired housekeeper, has had two surgeries to remove tumors.
Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at email@example.com or 702-384-8710. Follow @CarriGeer on Twitter.