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According to federal statistics it is estimated that 18.2 million adults and children have some form of diabetes. In fact, it is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. Those individuals diagnosed with type 2 diabetes often fight their condition with a change in diet and sometimes a prescription recommended by their physician. In Ohio alone, it is estimated that diabetes cost over $5 billion annually.

Recently, a federal judge set an initial hearing for March 22, 2012, for a group of product liability lawsuits claiming Actos, a top-selling diabetes drug, causes bladder cancer.

On Feb. 13, 2012, the U.S. District judge announced she intends to appoint the lead attorneys for the consolidated cases against Takeda Pharmaceuticals America Inc. at the court hearing.

Participants in the lawsuit claim research shows people who take Actos for more than a year seem to have an increased risk of developing bladder cancer. The lawsuits allege Takeda Pharmaceuticals concealed information about the risk and did not do enough to warn doctors and consumers.

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation assigned the Lafayette, Louisiana, judge to hear the lawsuits against Takeda Pharmaceuticals, which is based in Deerfield, Illinois. Attorneys representing people who had a negative experience with the drug say they expect to file several thousand claims against the company.

In addition to the federal court case, there are pending cases involving Actos in at least two state courts. Takeda’s lawyers report the first lawsuit claiming a correlation between taking Actos and developing bladder cancer was filed in July 2011.

In a Feb. 14, 2012 statement, Takeda said it stands behind the popular drug.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned consumers that Actos might cause an increased risk of cancer in 2010, but did not ban the drug. The Japanese parent company of Takeda, Takeda Pharmaceuticals Co. Ltd., stopped selling Actos in France and Germany in 2011.

The FDA approved Actos as a treatment for Type 2 diabetes in 1999. Takeda initially sought assistance from Eli Lilly & Co. to promote the drug in the United States. However, Takeda began doing its own marketing in 2006 when its agreement with Lilly ended.

An FDA spokeswoman says the agency has known the drug might cause an increased risk of bladder cancer since it was approved for treating Type 2 diabetes in 1999. The drug’s label has always warned of the risk.

Source: CBS News, “Judge sets 1st hearing for diabetes drug lawsuits,” Feb. 14, 2012.