By DAVID FERRARA
A pair of Clark County women deserve at least $60 million after developing bladder cancer from taking the diabetes drug Actos, one of their attorneys told a jury Monday.
The lawyers for Delores Cipriano, 81, and Bertha Triana, 80, have said they plan to seek billions of dollars more in punitive damages from the Japan-based drug maker Takeda as the case wraps up this week.
After a three-month trial that started in Las Vegas in February, the jury heard the start of closing arguments Monday in the product liability trial against Asia’s largest drug maker over the cancer risks of the prescription diabetes drug pioglitaone, known as Actos.
Cipriano’s lawyer, Robert Eglet, told jurors that Takeda was “needlessly endangering the public with an unreasonably dangerous drug,” and the company valued profits over patients’ safety.
“Takeda and everyone involved with them doesn’t want to play by the rules,” said Eglet, representing Cipriano, of Henderson, who filed suit against the drug maker last year. “They infected everybody.”
Takeda lawyer Craig Thompson called bladder cancer a “slow-growing disease” and that Actos did not cause the disease in Cipriano or Triana.
“It is critical to respond and set the record straight when necessary,” he said. “It’s critical to respond when incorrect statements are being made. … Our job, our obligation and our goal has been to present our facts and represent our client in a zealous manner.”
Cipriano’s case was consolidated with Triana’s for the trial. Along with thousands across the country, the women said they were not warned about cancer risks.
Eglet asked the jury to award Triana $35 million and Cipriano $25 million in compensatory damages, along with another $3.5 to $5.25 million for Triana’s husband, Hiram for loss of consortium.
“This is a case about corporate greed,” said Eglet, the first lawyer to give a closing argument.
Last month, a federal jury in Louisiana imposed $6 billion in punitive damages against the company.
Before Monday’s arguments started, Clark County District Judge Kerry Earley read a list of 58 jury instructions, including one that stated defense counsel engaged in “pattern of misconduct” throughout the trial, which began with jury instructions Feb. 10.
The instruction was the result of a sanction against the defense attorneys who the judge said repeatedly violated court orders.
Throughout the trial, attorneys for Cipriano and Triana have tried to show that Takeda did not inform patients or doctors about the risk of bladder cancer associated with the use of Actos, first sold in the United States in 1999.
Triana took Actos for two years, between 2005 and 2007, and Cipriano took it for 14 months before the drug maker mentioned the cancer risk in package warnings.
In June 2011, the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning that use of Actos for more than a year may be associated with an increased risk of bladder cancer.
Cipriano and Triana were both diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2012 and have undergone multiple surgeries to remove their tumors.
Takeda destroyed computers and shredded documents that contained information about the risks of the drug, Eglet said.
“They erased everything,” Eglet said. “Is that playing by the rules, or is that playing by Takeda’s rules?”
While Cipriano’s cancer was in remission, Triana discovered last week that her cancer returned, Eglet told the jury as he placed his hand on Triana’s shoulder.
“And you know from the evidence that it’s likelier than 50 percent that the same thing is going to happen to Mrs. Cipriano,” Eglet said, then placing his hand on Cipriano’s shoulder. “Mrs. Cirpiano is not a statistic. She is a living, breathing and feeling human being.”
Eglet asked jurors to “send a message to the community” and quoted Martin Luther King Jr. — “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” — in his more than two hour closing argument.
He urged the jury to find that Takeda should pay punitive damages but did not disclose a figure.
“There’s no amount of money that will ever take care of Mrs. Triana and take this away,” Eglet said. “There’s no amount of money that will change what happened to Mrs. Cipriano and take away that fear that this will come back.”
Thompson’s closing argument is slated to continue after the trial resumes at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.